The director of the Arizona Department of Health Services has asked a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit challenging a new policy requiring doctors to advise women that chemical abortions can be reversed, arguing that it hasn’t hurt anyone yet.
The lawsuit, brought by a group of physicians and Planned Parenthood, contends that Arizona’s law violates doctors’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to promote a procedure that the American Congress of Obstetricians has said is not supported by scientific evidence.
Director Cara Christ’s lawyer, Douglas Drury, argued in court documents that the issue is not “ripe” for consideration because no doctors or patients have “suffered any injury in fact.”
For violating the law, which has been put on hold pending judicial review, doctors can lose their licenses and clinics can be shut down.
Christ, an MD, also contests accusations that the law is not based on credible science, noting that there are at least 290 physicians willing to perform the procedure, and asks the courts to respect lawmakers.
“The actions of the Arizona Legislature are entitled to deference,” Drury wrote. “Duly-passed legislation is presumed to be constitutional, and where possible should be given a construction that avoids constitutional difficulty.”
Andrew Beck, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is backing the lawsuit, called Christ’s argument a “technicality” and a “distraction.”
“It doesn’t address the heart of the claim, which is that this law forces doctors to lie to their patients,” told New Times. “We are confident the judge will see through it.”
The treatment in question was developed by San Diego-based Dr. George Delgado, who argues that women who are given a high dose of the hormone progesterone after they have taken just one of the two pills required to complete a chemical abortion can go on to deliver healthy babies.
Delgado has published only one peer-reviewed article about the procedure — a case study of six women. But he promotes it extensively on his website, abortionpillreversal.com, and claims more than 100 women across the country have benefited from it.
Many doctors, though, feel Delgado’s claims need further study because, among other concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not formally indicated progesterone for use during pregnancy.
Bryan Howard, CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, called Delgado’s work “junk science” that puts the “health and safety of Arizona women at risk.”
If Delgado wants the procedure to become standard medical practice Scottsdale-based OBGYN Dr. Eric Reuss argued that he should use established scientific protocols — not force the issue with legislation.
“There is no credible evidence that this works,” he said. “They need to do real studies with real controls, publish them in peer-reviewed journals, and let the medical community respond.”
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