State House Votes to Allow Unannounced Inspections at Abortion Clinics

Feb 28, 2014

Ignoring a virtually certain lawsuit, the state House voted Thursday to let health officials conduct unannounced inspection at abortion clinics. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

Rep. Debbie Lesko is a supporter of allowing unannounced inspections of abortion clinics. A federal court ruled a similar 2004 bid unconstitutional.

Rep. Debbie Lesko said existing law allows such inspections at every other kind of health facility, including hospitals and nursing homes. But, abortion clinics are not covered.

“So basically, what’s happening now is abortion clinics apparently must not care as much for the woman’s health in an abortion clinic as they do in a hospital or any other place they’re not subject to unannounced inspections, just like Burger King is,” Lesko said.

But, the issue is not that simple. A 2004 ruling by a federal appellate court voided an earlier bid by lawmakers for unannounced inspections, with judges ruling the law violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Rep. Mark Cardenas said if lawmakers are so anxious for another court fight they should take the money out of their own budget rather than wasting other taxpayer funds. That drew a sharp response from Lesko.

“If there’s concern about lawsuit costs, I suggest that Mr. Cardenas and his fellow members that oppose the bill talk to Planned Parenthood and tell them not to sue, save the taxpayers lots of money,” Lesko said.

State health officials said they did not seek the change in law and were able to get an administrative search warrant the one time in the last three years they needed one.