AZ Doctors Officially Liberated From 'Junk Science' Law As Attorney General Concedes Medication-Abortion Fight

Talk about a win for science! The state of Arizona is finally backing out of its fight to require that doctors tell their patients that it's possible to "reverse" a medication abortion.

Also known as the "abortion pill," a medication abortion terminates a pregnancy through the use of two drugs, administered 24 to 48 hours apart. The first drug, mifepristone, causes the lining of the uterus to break down, and the second, misoprostol, causes the uterus to empty. The method is widely considered to be a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy; Planned Parenthood of Arizona reports that nearly half of all abortions performed in the state are medication abortions.

In 2015, the Arizona legislature passed Senate Bill 1318, which mandated that doctors administering medication abortions inform patients that if they take high doses of the hormone progesterone after taking mifepristone, but before taking misoprostol, they can safely remain pregnant.

Lawmakers relied on the research of Dr. George Delgado, a physician in Southern California who claimed that 60 percent of women who took the progesterone remained pregnant. Critics, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, call Delgado's research "junk science." His so-called clinical trial involved just six women.

Over the medical community's protestations, Governor Doug Ducey signed the law, the first of its kind in the nation.

While the pro-life Center for Arizona policy celebrated the decision, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America promptly sued the state.

"This junk-science law would force doctors to lie to their patients and put women's health at risk. In no other area of medicine would this stand — which is why we're fighting in Arizona and across the country for women's access to accurate information and safe, quality care," Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated in a press release at the time.

In October of last year, months before the law would have gone into effect, U.S. District Judge Steven Logan granted the plaintiffs' request for an injunction, which put the law on hold until the case was decided.

"Women should never be force-fed lies and misinformation about their health in order to advance a political agenda." — Nancy Northup, Center for Reproductive Rights

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Supporters of the SB 1318 in the legislature apparently saw the writing on the wall and passed new legislation, SB 1112, that rescinded the mandate. Ducey signed that law as well.

Earlier this week, in what is being hailed as a victory for women's health, the Arizona Attorney General's Office backed out of the lawsuit, agreeing to "conclude" the case and put the matter to rest.

"If it had gone into effect, this law would have forced doctors to provide all patients seeking a safe, legal abortion — even patients who cannot have a medication abortion or who have chosen a surgical procedure — with medically inaccurate and misleading information that could be harmful to their health," Planned Parenthood of Arizona asserted in a statement on Tuesday.

"Women should never be force-fed lies and misinformation about their health in order to advance a political agenda," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press release. "Junk science has no place in medicine."
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Miriam is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Miriam Wasser