An Arizona judge permanently blocked a 2012 anti-abortion law on Thursday that would have severely restricted medication abortions, ruling the measure would have violated the state’s Constitution by allowing state lawmakers to assign legislative authority to outside entities.
HB 2036 would have forced physicians to strictly adhere to the FDA’s guidelines for dosing and administering mifepristone and its companion drug misoprostol, requiring patients to schedule separate appointments in order to receive both medications in office and at a higher dosage than typically prescribed in practice. In addition, the law would have banned medication abortions after just seven weeks of pregnancy.
The law has been met with resistance since its inception. In April 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court against the measure, arguing lawmakers did not have the authority to grant the FDA and drug companies the power to set state standards. A federal suit on behalf of Planned Parenthood Arizona followed soon after, resulting in a temporary injunction which in turn reversed a federal judge’s previous ruling to allow the rules to take effect. Last September, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne petitioned the Supreme Court to review the judgement. The federal case was postponed pending the state court’s decision. And earlier this summer, Arizona health care providers filed a complaint in federal court challenging the law.
The combination of mifepristone and misoprostol (known as Mifeprex in the United States) is the safest and most effective abortion method available. Approximately 1 in 4 women have chosen medication abortion to end their pregnancies since the FDA approved its use in 2000, with nearly half of all women seeking abortions in Arizona having used the method.
Last week’s decision arrives just one week prior to Arizona’s scheduled courtroom deliberation of yet another anti-abortion law, SB 1318, which requires physicians to provide medically unproven information about medication abortion to their patients, including the falsehood that the method is reversible. The trial has since been delayed.
“Whether by restricting a safe method of ending an early pregnancy or forcing doctors to lie to their patients, Arizona politicians have made it their mission to cut off access to safe and legal abortion,” said David Brown, Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s ruling is one more key victory in ensuring Arizona women continue to have access to all available options when it comes to their health, safety, and rights. Women’s constitutional rights are not up for debate and facts must always prevail over politics.”
Media Resources: National Partnership Press Release 10/16/15; Feminist Newswire 6/5/15; FDA.gov; Guttmacher Winter 2013 V16 N1; Center for Reproductive Rights Press Release 10/16/15;