A federal district judge has refused to temporarily block enforcement of Arizona’s restrictions on medication abortion, meaning that as of today, women in Arizona will no longer be able to access non-surgical, medication abortion beyond seven weeks, and doctors will be forced to administer that medication according to an outdated protocol.

The decision, by US District Court Judge David Bury, is not the final ruling on the issue. The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the medication abortion restrictions remains ongoing. Judge Bury’s decision, however, does mean that the restrictions will go into effect pending the final outcome of the case.

Planned Parenthood and the Tucson Women’s Center, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, challenged the Arizona restrictions, which were passed in 2012.┬áThe restrictions require doctors to follow a protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. The problem is that the FDA protocol on the use, dosage, and administration of mifepristone – the medication at issue – no longer represents the predominate medical standard of care. Instead, doctors have developed a new standard – endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – that calls for a significantly lower dosage of mifepristone, one that can be safely administered beyond seven weeks.

“With today’s disappointing ruling, Arizona women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, high-quality reproductive health care have been diminished, simply by virtue of where they live,” said David Brown, staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier, and less effective method. This is what happens when politicians, not doctors, practice medicine.”

Several states have enacted restrictions on medication abortion, and court decisions on their legality have been mixed. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld Texas’s medication restrictions, but restrictions in North Dakota and Oklahoma have been found unconstitutional and overturned. The US Supreme Court has so far stayed out the the debate, refusing to hear an appeal of the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision this term.

Media Resouces: Arizona Capitol Times, 3/31/14; Center for Reproductive Rights, 3/31/14; New York Times, 3/31/14; Feminist Newswire, 11/4/13, 4/19/13, 12/5/12

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