National Catholic Reporter

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Arizona court affirms state abortion limits

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PHOENIX -- Just two years ago, those attending the annual luncheon of parish respect life coordinators in the Phoenix Diocese were rather discouraged as they faced a new, pro-abortion administration in Washington and the specter of the Freedom of Choice Act that threatened to guarantee abortion rights and negate federal, state and municipal restrictions on abortion.

But this year's gathering Aug. 19 came a day after the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that restrictions on abortion passed by the state Legislature were both reasonable and constitutional.

"We didn't give up, did we? We kept moving and we're certainly not there, but since that time we've been abundantly blessed, especially in Arizona," said Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference. "We really need to give thanks for these great laws."

Following the Court of Appeals decision, Planned Parenthood announced that effective Aug. 22, it would no longer perform abortions at seven of its Arizona clinics. That leaves Glendale, Tempe and Tucson as the only sites where Planned Parenthood will provide surgical abortions.

Johnson noted that one of the key provisions of the law that was upheld by the Court of Appeals is that only a physician may perform an abortion. With so few doctors willing to perform the procedure, that left nurse practitioners to do so. Not anymore, at least not in Arizona.

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Planned Parenthood almost certainly will appeal the court's decision, Johnson said, and has until mid-September to do so. The Arizona Supreme Court was expected to decide by the end of the year whether to consider the appeal.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix said he was pleased with Planned Parenthood's announcement that it would no longer perform abortions at seven of its Arizona clinics.

"I give thanks to God that the killing of unborn children will cease, at least for the time being, at a number of Planned Parenthood's facilities," he said. "This is a small victory in a long struggle, but an important one because each day innocent lives will be saved as a result of it."

Mike Phelan, director of the Office of Marriage and Respect Life for the Phoenix Diocese, said the decision means that "our pro-motherhood, pro-life clinics will be busier helping those in need, and we will need to be ready to support them even more than we have -- and this is great news."

Meanwhile, the executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference criticized the filing of a lawsuit aimed at blocking a new law requiring that abortion-inducing drugs be taken only in accordance with protocols approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Despite an FDA report that abortion drugs have killed 14 and injured over 2,000 women, "extreme abortion advocates seek to stop reasonable regulations on the drug's use, thus putting women at greater risk of harm," said Christopher Dodson.

He said a similar law passed in Ohio was recently upheld by a federal court.

"Considering the drug's dangerous record, it is shameful that abortion extremists will once again tie up the courts and fight reasonable efforts to protect women's health," Dodson added.

A hearing on the lawsuit was set for Oct. 26.

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