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Judge grants injunction on AZ abortion laws

A Maricopa Superior Court judge has granted a preliminary injunction against new state laws that place restrictions on abortion.

Judge Donald Daughton issued the injunction one day before the laws were set to take effect. The laws that were challenged were created by legislation enacted earlier this year - S1175 and H2564.

The judge ruled that Planned Parenthood Arizona, which filed suit to challenge two laws enacted during the 2009 legislative session, has established that it has a strong likelihood of success on the merits and that there is a possibility of “irreparable injury” if the law were allowed to take effect on Sept. 30.

The court blocked the enforcement of S1175, which prohibits those who are not physicians from performing surgical abortions, and key provisions of H2564, which requires certain information to be provided to a woman “orally and in person” as opposed to getting the information by telephone or other means.

Under the enacted legislation, women seeking abortion must be provided with information about the immediate and long-term medical risks associated with abortion, alternatives to the procedure, and the “probable gestational age” of the unborn child at the time the abortion is to be performed. Also halted was a requirement that the information be given by “the physician who is to perform the abortion or the referring physician” as opposed to a qualified staff member. 

Additionally, the court blocked a section of legislation that was intended to set into statute that any employee of an abortion facility is not required to “facilitate” the procedure. The same section permits any employee of a pharmacy, hospital, or health professional who objects in writing to abortion on moral or religious grounds to be free from any requirement to facilitate or participate in abortion, abortion medication or emergency contraception. 

Finally, the court temporarily blocked enforcement of a provision stipulating that parental consent for a minor’s abortion must be notarized, unless and until, added the court, “the Arizona Secretary of State gives adequate and ongoing notice to all Notary Publics in the state of their confidentiality obligations with respect to notarial acts involving parental consent to abortion, and establishes penalties for violation.”

The injunction was granted only hours after attorneys representing both sides of the suit offered their initial arguments.

Abortion-rights activists called it a victory for Arizona women, but anti-abortion activists said it is merely the first round of what is sure to be a drawn out court fight.

A lobbyist for the Center for Arizona Policy said the injuction was a disappointment.

“These are common sense regulations,” said Cathi Herrod, director of the Center for Arizona Policy. “Women in Arizona deserve to see a doctor, be given information about the abortion, its risks, its alternatives, and then have a period of reflection.” 

After the hearing, Bryan Howard of Planned Parenthood said the abortion laws, if allowed to take effect, would put Arizona women “in harm’s way.”

“Women (would) be required to go through steps that are medically unnecessary to get health care,” he said.

The judge also rejected a motion by Sen. Linda Gray of Glendale and Rep. Nancy Barto of Phoenix, along with several pro-life groups, to intervene as defendants in a case seeking to block the enforcement of the abortion laws.

The judge said they failed to prove that their interests will be inadequately represented by the Attorney General’s Office. Terry Goddard, in his official capacity as attorney general, is a defendant in the case. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office had said Goddard, a Democrat who has ties to abortion-rights groups, would be screened from the case.

Meanwhile, a U.S. district court denied the preliminary injunction sought by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed a separate case seeking to block enforcement of major provisions of H2654.

The U.S. district court also heard oral arguments on Sept. 29. Both the state and federal hearings were held the same day.

Attorneys for the Center had argued that the 24-hour provision unconstitutionally burdens a woman’s right to an abortion, and that the payment provision in the bill is unconstitutionally vague.

But federal Judge David Campbell said the plaintiffs “failed to show that they are likely to prevail on the merits of these constitutional claims.”

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