The Republican-backed bill, which passed the state Senate on a
17-13 vote and now goes to the governor, would remove a provision in
law state requiring a judge to sign off on any surprise inspections
conducted at the nine clinics in Arizona licensed to perform
No other medical facilities require such a warrant.
"This is not about pro-life or pro-choice at this point," said
Senator Nancy Barto, a supporter of the bill. "What it is about is
protecting the lives of women and children."
Barto, a Phoenix Republican, said that abortion clinics should be
subject to the same level of oversight as other medical facilities
and that requiring court-approved warrants for unannounced health
inspections could delay such scrutiny.
Republican Governor Jan Brewer has five days from the time the bill
is formally transmitted to her desk to veto it, sign it or do
nothing and have it become law. She has not indicated what her
decision will be.
If the measure is enacted, Arizona would join 10 other states that
allow for warrantless surprise inspections, according to the
Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit sexual health organization.
Abortion-rights advocates have said they would challenge the measure
in court if it becomes law, adding to a string of abortion controls
on the books in Arizona that rank among the most restrictive in the
In 2012, Arizona enacted a law banning most abortions from being
performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, though a federal appeals
court struck down that statute last year.
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Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford, a Democrat from Tucson, said the
bill, which has been pushed for by the conservative Center for
Arizona Policy, was unnecessary and could lead to excessive
interference with clinics, effectively restraining legal access to
abortion in Arizona.
"This bill simply opens the door for abuse and does nothing to keep
women safe," she said during debate on the Senate floor. "In fact,
it's just another harassment tool the supporters are pushing to
force a lawsuit."
Arizona lawmakers previously approved warrantless surprise
inspections for abortion clinics in 1999, but a federal appeals
court struck down that measure as unconstitutional.
Abortion foes argue that warrantless inspections could now pass
court muster under a new set of abortion clinic regulations adopted
by Arizona in 2010. Abortion rights advocates disagree.
(Reporting by David Schwartz; editing by Steve Gorman and Eric
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