PHOENIX — State lawmakers have broad authority to impose new restrictions on abortion and who can perform the procedure, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
The judges said that prohibiting anyone but a licensed physician from surgically terminating a pregnancy does not impose undue restrictions on a woman’s constitutional right to choose. Judge Peter Swann, writing for the unanimous court, said the fact that nurse practitioners are specifically trained to do the procedure and have a comparable safety record is legally irrelevant.
In their 44-page ruling, the judges also upheld laws that:
• require women to have a face-to-face meeting with the doctor who will perform the abortion at least 24 hours ahead of time, even if that means two trips to the clinic;
• allow medical professionals to refuse to perform abortions, provide certain contraceptives or dispense the ``morning after'' pill even to victims of rape;
• mandate that consent forms by parents allowing a child to get an abortion must be notarized.
Thursday's ruling is a major victory for abortion foes, as it overturns an injunction issued two years ago by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Donald Daughton. He concluded that letting the restrictions take effect could cause “irreparable harm” to women.
But the decision, unless overturned, has even broader implications. It likely signals that Arizona courts will uphold several new restrictions on abortion that lawmakers enacted this year, including barring nurse practitioners from performing even medical abortions.
That is because the judges said only when a law places an “undue burden” on women does it violate their constitutional rights. The fact that it may place some burden on them, they concluded, is not enough.
Read more in tomorrow's Star