Arizona's newest abortion regulations won't go into effect while adversaries of the new rules challenge a ruling from a lower court.
The regulations, which impose new restrictions on medicated abortions in the state, have been the subject of a court battle just as the rules were set to take effect on April 1.
A federal judge initially denied the request of Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights to put a stay on the rules during the court battle, and as the rules were to go into effect, an appeals court issued a temporary injunction. Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals extended the injunction.
The court battle is over rules that were implemented by the state health department to comply with House Bill 2036, signed into law in 2012.
The law, and new regulations, mandate that doctors must comply with the FDA protocol for prescribing the pills used in medicated abortions.
The FDA's protocol for the abortion medications says, among other things, that these medications can be used up to seven weeks of pregnancy. Abortion providers in the state currently rely on the medical standard outlined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says the preferred method of administering the medications can be done through nine weeks of pregnancy.
One Scottsdale OB/GYN said these new restrictions "turn back the clock" on how medicated abortions are administered, adding that the modern, preferred method is based on rigorous scientific studies.
Planned Parenthood of Arizona CEO Bryan Howard has said that about 2,500 women in Arizona came to Planned Parenthood for medicated abortion services in 2013, within nine weeks of pregnancy -- the time frame for medicated abortions before today's new rules. Under this new regulation, that wouldn't have been an option for 800 of those women, Howard said.
It becomes a bigger deal when you consider that there are no abortion clinics that provide surgical abortions in the state north of Phoenix. Due to various other regulations, the only abortion clinic in northern Arizona, in Flagstaff, only provides medicated abortions.
The stay on the rules will go on for some time now; oral arguments are scheduled in front of the appeals court in San Francisco on May 13.
Another part of HB 2036, which banned abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, already was overturned by the courts. The law is one of nearly 20 anti-abortion laws pushed by the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy. Four of those laws (not including HB 2036) have been overturned in court.
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Meanwhile, the Center for Arizona Policy is pushing more abortion regulations this legislative session. There's one bill that could soon be passed by the Legislature: HB 2284, which already received approval from the House. It would allow the state health department to perform unannounced searches of abortion clinics without first obtaining an administrative warrant.
"The Ninth Circuit's decision to continue the stay should be a wake-up call to our current legislators," Howard, the Planned Parenthood of Arizona CEO, says in a statement. "The courts are not ruling in favor of bills crafted by the Center for Arizona Policy. CAP has been successful the last few years, chipping away at women's health care access, but now they have gone to the fringes of legality and constitutionality. Arizona legislators have already had buyer's remorse on a CAP bill this legislative session - Senate Bill 1062."
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