I am writing to express my disappointment with the Arizona Capitol Times’ one-sided article published April 12, “Planned Parenthood files to overturn AZ abortion laws.” Your article lays out all the arguments that Planned Parenthood is asserting in its attempt to unilaterally overturn democratically-enacted state law, but neglects entirely to mention even one of the important public policy considerations that went into passing those laws in the first place.
Of course, as a practical matter, it really isn’t noteworthy that Planned Parenthood should be bringing a suit to challenge laws unfavorable to its business. Planned Parenthood is an abortion provider, an activity it derives economic profit from, so its suit is comparable to, say, a soda company filing suit to enjoin a law against serving sugary drinks. The average reader would be quick to dismiss such a case as an attempt to protect its earnings by meddling in public policy and may take its public policy arguments with a grain of salt. The same goes for the current Planned Parenthood suit. According to Planned Parenthood’s 2016-2017 report, it was involved in over 320,000 abortions and earned nearly $100 million in profit. Is Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit a fight for women or a push for further profit? The bigger concern is that the Arizona Capitol Times, an agent of the free press, should so uncritically report on such a case.
For example, your article asserts that Arizona encourages the use of telemedicine, except where abortion is involved, suggesting that non-medical reasons may have guided the Legislature. This provision was enacted, however, because too many women have died in Planned Parenthood’s clinics. On July 20, 2012, Tonya Reaves, a 24-year-old woman, died from a hemorrhage in one of their clinics in Chicago. Abortions can be a surgical procedure. Surgical procedures are performed in hospitals – not by telemedicine! And hospitals are certainly subject to state scrutiny and regulation. Hospitals have the resources to care for women when procedures go wrong, for example, as when excessive bleeding occurs, such as caused the death of Planned Parenthood client Diana Lopez in February of 2002. Ms. Reaves and Ms. Lopez would be alive today if they were in a hospital.
Your article says that the Legislature requires two trips to a clinic in the case of abortion, again suggesting some particular animus on the part of the Legislature. However, on September 17, 2003, Holly Patterson, one of Planned Parenthoods clients, died from a severe bacterial infection caused by an incomplete abortion. She had been at Planned Parenthood’s clinic seven days prior. Ms. Patterson may be alive today if two trips to a clinic were required!
Your article says that doctors are forbidden from prescribing pills for a medication abortion without a face-to-face visit, suggesting that such medications are as routine and safe as medications typically prescribed without a visit. However, On December 29, 2003, Vivian Tran died of sepsis after having received abortion drugs for a “chemical abortion” from a California Planned Parenthood facility. I haven’t yet heard of a death or overdose from amoxicillin or antibiotics often prescribed without a physical visit.
Your article asserts that Planned Parenthood closed locations in Yuma, Prescott Valley, Chandler and Goodyear, as if Arizona is at fault for this. This is by no means unique to Arizona. Planned Parenthood closed five locations in Pennsylvania in 2017 alone! Perhaps the most convoluted argument is Bryan Howard’s, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, who asserts that “the result [that Arizona law infringes on the constitutional right of women to terminate a pregnancy] is borne out in the fact that the number of abortions performed has dropped from between 9,000 and 10,000 a year a dozen years ago to fewer than 6,500 now.” As if no other reason may exist for a decline in women seeking abortions from Planned Parenthood, from the success of sex education classes, preference for other providers given Planned Parenthood’s record, to age and population demographic changes or different attitudes toward sex, pregnancy, and access to drugs or other products in general – any of which reasons will affect numbers of abortions performed.
Is the current decline in sales of sugary drinks or the current decline in measles vaccinations due to Arizona law, too, Mr. Howard? Mr. Howard seems to think that medical and surgical termination of pregnancies is a good thing, whose numbers should increase over time, not a regrettable, costly, elective medical procedure best avoided via any number of other avenues.
I don’t have the space here to address all of Planned Parenthood’s assertions, which your article faithfully reports. The point is that I expect better, two-sided reporting from the Arizona Capitol Times.
I’m glad that we live in a state with a Legislature that has enough concern for women to ensure that legal protections surround dangerous procedures, particularly given Planned Parenthood’s track record of malfeasance, some of which I’ve given examples of above. Remember: when a single corporate entity, such as Planned Parenthood, prevails in court in overturning laws that our elected Legislature carefully considered, led inquiries on, debated, voted on, and signed into law by an elected governor, it strikes at your voice and power as a voting citizen.
Neal K. Carter, a lawyer and host of Positively San Tan podcast, is running for the House seat in Legislative District 8 in 2020.