Arizona's New Regulations on Medicated Abortion Draw a Lawsuit

Yet another new Arizona abortion law has resulted in a lawsuit.

The latest lawsuit, filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, alleges a new regulation that restricts how medicated abortions are administered is unconstitutional.

David Brown, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, says a strict interpretation of the law could actually ban medicated abortions entirely in Arizona.

See also:
-Window for Medicated Abortions to Be Shortened Under Arizona Health Regulations
-Arizona House Passes Bill to Allow Warrantless Searches of Abortion Clinics

The lawsuit stems from the Arizona Department of Health Services making new rules to comply with House Bill 2036, signed by the governor in 2012. That law called for ADHS to make various rules, including that doctors have to prescribe the abortion-inducing medications in compliance with the FDA's protocol.

The FDA's dated protocol says, among other things, that these medications can be used up to seven weeks of pregnancy. One of the drugs used in medicated abortions is technically used "off label," leading to the belief that the law could be banning medicated abortions outright, under a strict interpretation.

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 (their method also requires that "off label" use of the medication).

"It's clear the real purpose of HB 2036 was to restrict safe legal access of abortion," Planned Parenthood Arizona president Bryan Howard says.

We'll give you one guess as to which group lobbied heavily for the passage of HB 2036. (The Center for Arizona Policy, which is behind another abortion bill working its way through the Legislature, which is also likely to draw a lawsuit.)

Another part of the law, banning abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, already has been overturned in federal court, in a case the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear.

Dr. Eric Reuss, a 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.

"Supporters of the law claim to be doing this for the benefit of women," Reuss says. "This law was not designed to protect women, it does the opposite."

Howard said about 2,500 women in Arizona came to Planned Parenthood for medicated abortion services in 2013, within nine weeks of pregnancy -- the current time frame for medicated abortions.

Under this new regulation, that wouldn't have been an option for 800 of those women, Howard says.

Ohio and Texas have enacted similar regulations, and those have been upheld in court challenges, with exceptions.

Brown, the Center for Reproductive Rights attorney, doesn't have the same expectation for the lawsuit against the Arizona law. He says that every state's restriction is slightly different, and the evidence supporting their case is different now than it was when the aforementioned court battles were fought.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley