PHOENIX — A state Health Services Department citation issued to a Planned
Parenthood clinic in suburban Phoenix has been cleared after the abortion
provider made several small policy changes prompted by a surprise inspection
The department also withdrew other portions of the “statement of
deficiencies” after the Glendale clinic provided the state with documents that
weren’t readily available to inspectors in February, according to documents
obtained by The Associated Press.
The dismissals show that the unannounced search, which disrupted the abortion
provider’s daily operations, didn’t find major problems or result in penalties
or fines. “There’s not a lot there, that’s certainly true,” said Jodi Liggett,
director of public policy at Planned Parenthood of Arizona.
Connie Belden, the health department’s bureau chief for medical facility
licensing, said it’s common for investigations to turn up only documentation
She said state officials hope investigations find that clinics are following
the rules, but they have to perform checks to make sure. “We don’t look for
non-compliance, but our obligation to the public is to ensure that facilities
are in compliance,” Belden said Wednesday.
The Feb. 10 investigation was the first under a 2010 lawsuit settlement
requiring warrants before snap inspections. It was prompted by a Planned
Parenthood report that revealed a surgical complication.
Belden didn’t say what in that report raised enough questions for her to
conclude that rule violations were possible.
Planned Parenthood has criticized the use of the warrant, saying health
inspectors could have gotten the same information during a regular, announced
They also questioned the timing because the search came just days before a
legislative hearing on a bill removing the warrant requirement.
The Department of Health Services has said there was no political motivation
behind the search.
The search came just as the Legislature took up a bill pushed by the
anti-abortion group Center for Arizona Policy to remove the warrant requirement.
House Bill 2284 passed both chambers and was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April.
Liggett said her group met with health department officials and provided
information that led them to withdraw some of the citation and accept Planned
Parenthood’s changes to resolve the remainder.
“We are certainly confident in the care that we give,” Liggett said. “We
were literally surprised by the inspection, but we are happy to work with our
Planned Parenthood President Bryan Howard was unavailable, but said after the
signing of HB 2284 that a lawsuit would likely be filed once new rules for
warrantless snap inspections are finalized.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has found that unannounced inspections at
abortion clinics are illegal because women’s privacy rights are especially at
risk. The ruling led to a settlement between the state and abortion providers in
2010 that calls for a search warrant to be obtained before an inspection.
Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod has said new state regulation
of abortion clinics imposed since the settlement means the appeals court ruling
is no longer relevant.
The citation issued after the search faulted the clinic for not providing
licensing and certification records for two nurses and a health aide and for not
performing required laboratory and ultrasound tests on a patient. It also said
the clinic didn’t properly monitor a woman’s vital signs in the recovery room.
Howard has said all staffers were appropriately licensed, all tests were
performed and vital signs were properly monitored.
The accepted corrective action plan shows the clinic implemented a new
electronic record-keeping system in December that will allow staff to better
file ultrasound images and an updated procedure for managing and auditing
The health department inspected about 2,400 medical facilities last year, but
only abortion clinics require advance notice or a warrant. Those that receive
statements of deficiencies often go through a dispute-resolution process that
can result in changes or the complete withdrawal of the citation. Such notices
can result in civil penalties or even license revocations.