PHOENIX, AZ -(Arizona Republic from ProLifeInfo.org) Women in Arizona still receive abortions in unlicensed
abortion facilities, despite pledges made after a highly publicized
abortion death three years ago.
State lawmakers reacted to the 1998 abortion death of LouAnne Herron by
passing a law that for the first time would have required state licensing
of places where abortions are performed. But the regulations have become a
political and legal train wreck.
First, a New York pro-abortion legal group filed suit, derailing the
pro-life law's implementation. The group argued that licensure is a poorly
cloaked effort to put abortion practitioners out of business in Arizona
and that it is unnecessary they claimed because those who perform
abortions follow accepted standards of care -- even though such standards
were violated in the death of Herron.
The law, hammered out in the waning days of the 1998-99 legislative
session, was prompted by Herron's death on April 17, 1998. The 33-year-old
mother of two bled to death in the A-Z Women's Center abortion facility in
Phoenix after a an abortion practitioner punctured her uterus during an
The long-anticipated trial has packed Superior Court Judge Michael O.
Wilkinson's courtroom and stirred emotional testimony about Herron's last
three hours of life on a gurney at the abortion facility. But the legal
drama over licensure has unfolded quietly in the background.
Under the regulations, businesses that perform five or more
first-trimester abortions per month or any late-term abortions would be
licensed by the state. They also would have to state in writing the
reasons for abortions and techniques used.
Clinics would be required to send ultrasound images of unborn children to
a state laboratory to certify fetal age. In Arizona, an abortion
practitioner can decide when an unborn child is able to live outside the
womb, but the standard is generally 22-24 weeks.
Last March 1, less than two years after Herron died, the pro-abortion
Center for Reproductive Law & Public Policy of New York, filed suit in
U.S. District Court in Tucson against the state Department of Health
Kevin Ray, an assistant state attorney general, said the rules are
"reasonable and conform to national guidelines." One in particular would
have helped in the Biskind case, he said. It requires an abortion
practitioner to be immediately available until all womans' conditions are
stable. If the abortion practitioner can't be there, a physician's
assistant or a licensed nurse must be at the abortion facility until
discharge orders are signed.
Prosecutors say Biskind left the abortion facility even though he knew no
registered nurse was on duty and that Herron was in trouble.
Federal Judge Raner Collins in late March temporarily blocked the state's
new licensing rules. He is expected in the next few months to either
uphold or ban the licensure or set a trial date.
Patti Caldwell, president and chief executive officer of Planned
Parenthood of Southern Arizona, said she worries that those who also do
other medical procedures "could stop providing abortions."
While the lawsuit over the licensure meanders through the courts, women
continue to seek abortions in 10 facilities that do not have state
licenses. Ten other abortion facilities are licensed by the state because
they are owned by non-doctors. Planned Parenthood abortion facilities fall
under those licensing rules.
Planned Parenthood is disappointed that lawmakers didn't force DHS
licensure on other outpatient procedures. The department licenses other
medical facilities, including hospitals, outpatient treatment centers,
dialysis units and home health agencies.
But Sen. Sue Gerard, a Phoenix Republican, and chairwoman of the Senate
Health Committee, said that promise was made by Jeff Groscost, former
speaker of the House, who left the legislature last year.