Prescott-area Planned Parenthood patients affected by court ruling
More Prescott-area women seeking abortion services might have to travel to Phoenix and stay overnight if a new court ruling holds.
"Some women will be infringed upon, and potentially in harm's way," said Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona.
The Arizona Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a 2009 state law called the Abortion Consent Act that seeks several new restrictions on abortion services. The portions of the law challenged by Planned Parenthood have been on hold for two years.
Planned Parenthood is considering an appeal of the ruling. The law would take effect within 30 days otherwise.
Gov. Jan Brewer and House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Prescott, issued statements Thursday praising the court ruling.
"Today's decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals is a tremendous victory for life in Arizona," Tobin said. "The Abortion Consent Act protects the health and safety of Arizona women as well as the preborn."
Tobin was among the primary sponsors of the bill, HB2564, and Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, was a co-sponsor.
The law requires a doctor to read a statement to a woman in person 24 hours before an abortion, and the Planned Parenthood office in Prescott has no doctors.
Planned Parenthood is considering trying to get a doctor up here once a week if the ruling holds.
Currently, a nurse practitioner can read the statement over the phone. A 2-year-old law requires the statement. Planned Parenthood hired two nurses to meet the requirement of that law. The statement talks about how fathers must provide child support and Arizona has services for pregnant women, Howard related.
"It's basically to dissuade women from having an abortion," he said.
Planned Parenthood hasn't been able to find any local doctors to help it provide services in the Prescott area, even if it's just reading the statement, Howard said.
Often doctors fear protesters at their home, which has happened to a nurse practitioner in Flagstaff, he said. Sometimes they don't feel they have the proper training, he said. A 1970's state law prohibits the state's only medical school at the University of Arizona from teaching about abortion, he said.
The new law also bans nurses from conducting surgical abortions, so Prescott-area women would have to go to Phoenix to get them unless a doctor can get up here once a week or so. Women still could take abortion pills in Prescott, which work only during the first nine weeks of pregnancy.
About 150 women seek abortion services in the Prescott area each year, Howard said. And about 60 percent of those seeking abortions are married with children, he said.
Planned Parenthood's Prescott-area office has provided about 14,000 services to about 4,000 women since January 2009, he said, including about 450 abortions.
Planned Parenthood moved its office from Prescott to Prescott Valley last month.
The new law also requires parental consents for minor abortions to now be notarized. About 85 percent of the time, parents come to Planned Parenthood with their minor children anyway, Howard said. The state started requiring a parent's signature eight years ago, he said.
Planned Parenthood is still trying to figure out how to deal with the changes in the law, and it's spending a lot of time and resources on lawsuits to stop new laws, but it won't be closing its Prescott office, Howard said.
"We've been in Yavapai County more than 20 years and we're going to be very determined to continue to make that work," Howard said.
"There's really serious work to be done in this state to help women live healthier lives," he added, such as education about sexually transmitted diseases. For example, the Centers for Disease Control says one in four women age 20 and younger has an STD, he said.