Health Department Threatens to Search Home of Reproductive Rights Advocate, Prompts Demand for Records Related to Facility Inspections
Arizona Health Officials Cannot Use Inspections for Intimidation, Harassment
November 6, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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PHOENIX – Following a threat by the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) to search the home of a reproductive rights leader, the ACLU of Arizona is demanding records that will help establish whether intimidation tactics are routinely being used by the department against reproductive health service providers.
“Over the last few years, I have rallied against legislation targeted at reproductive health care providers,” said Kat Sabine, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona. “During this year’s legislative session, when our officials passed a law that allowed warrantless inspections of reproductive health clinics, I sounded the alarm, warning the public that such a law could be abused to intimidate health care providers and invade women’s privacy. Little did I know the state would turn around and target advocates like me.”
Three weeks ago, Ms. Sabine received a letter from ADHS stating they received a complaint alleging Ms. Sabine was providing health care services without a license. The letter threatened an inspection of Ms. Sabine’s Phoenix home.
Neither NARAL as an organization nor Ms. Sabine as an individual provide medical services. NARAL’s activities consist of “public education, citizen lobbying, and pro-choice voter mobilization.” ADHS gave no basis for its conclusion that Ms. Sabine’s home might be a health care facility.
“Our health department is basing its fishing expeditions on baseless complaints and using its authority to harass people in their homes,” Ms. Sabine said.
The response form ADHS required Ms. Sabine to return was faulty and could have misled her as to her legal options. It provided no space for her to deny the state’s allegation that her home is a healthcare institution nor did it provide a complete list of licensing exemptions, leaving off the statutory exception for community education and advocacy groups like NARAL.
“While it may be that these errors were all innocent, the circumstantial evidence is discomfiting, and you should be aware that further harassment of Ms. Sabine could subject you to liability for abuse of process or malicious prosecution,” ACLU of Arizona Senior Counsel Dan Pochoda wrote in a response to ADHS on Ms. Sabine’s behalf.
Following the ACLU’s reply, ADHS said they had “closed out the complaint.”
But, as the ACLU stated in its response, the concern remains that the state’s actions were “not intended to actually enforce the licensing laws … but to harass” Ms. Sabine.
Reproductive health care providers have reported an increase in inspections since H.B. 2284, permitting warrantless inspections of reproductive health clinics, went into effect several months ago. The request for public records the ACLU sent today to ADHS should clarify the criteria the state considers before demanding an inspection.
“Abusive enforcement of Arizona’s warrantless inspection law further erodes women’s expectation of privacy,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Women should not fear intimidation or harassment by their government when making reproductive health choices.”
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