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Updated Jun 10, 2013 - 4:37 pm

Panel OKs surprise abortion clinic inspections

PHOENIX -- A divided Arizona House panel advanced a measure on Monday that bans public dollars from indirectly supporting abortion providers and allows surprise inspections of abortion clinics.

In addition, language added at the behest of a powerful anti-abortion group would bar women on state Medicaid from getting an abortion at Planned Parenthood Arizona if they previously received planning or care from the group's clinics.

Majority Republicans voted as a block to add the three restrictions to the bill that was passed on a 7-4 party-line vote before the House Rules Committee found it was constitutional with a 7-3 tally. The measure now moves to debate by the full House on Tuesday.

Tim Fleming, a House Rules attorney, told the panel the bill would likely result in a lawsuit by abortion providers if it becomes law.

Democrats on the House Appropriations committee said the measure would set up more costly litigation that the state is likely to lose.

SB1069 was amended last week to add the language involving abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Bryan Howard, president of the organization, testified Monday and rejected the contention that it uses state and federal money from its family planning and other services to subsidize its abortion clinics.

He said the claim was rejected by a federal judge earlier this year when he blocked a bill that was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year. The judge also ordered the state to pay $213,000 to Planned Parenthood for its legal costs.

``This is costing the state so much money in litigation and it can be avoided,'' Howard said. ``I'm not asking you to change your mind about abortion. I'm asking you not to pass unconstitutional legislation.''

Cathi Herrod, leader of the Center for Arizona Policy, which pushed the abortion restrictions, disagreed that the bill creates an unconstitutional law.

``We believe that the law we presented to you, SB1069, is entirely defensible in court,'' she told the committee.

Democrats and Republicans sparred repeatedly over the provision allowing unannounced inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant. Currently, the state Health Services Department inspects clinics when they apply or reapply for a license, and regulators can get an administrative warrant for cause.

A warrant is required at abortion clinics but not at other surgical facilities under terms of a lawsuit settlement over a previous law.

Committee chairman Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said that's indefensible.

``The purpose of this legislation is to protect women,'' he said. ``We're saying simply treat abortion clinics the same as you treat dentists' offices or even a McDonald's.''

House Minority Leader Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, countered that abortion clinics require added protections because they're targeted by groups such as the one led by Herrod and because a woman's right to an abortion is protected by the constitution.

``Comparing this to going to a McDonald's, going out to dinner, going to get a cavity filled, these are not constitutionally protected activities,'' he said.


Associated Press writer Cristina Silva contributed to this report.

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