Supreme Court Won't Hear Arizona Abortion Law, Which Remains Blocked

The United States Supreme Court won't take up a case involving an Arizona law that severely restricts medicated abortions in the state.

This means that enforcement of that law remains blocked while Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Tucson Women's Clinic continue to fight the law in federal court, as they seek to have it permanently overturned.

"The Court did the right thing today, but this dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place. Politicians across the country should take note -- these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions won't be tolerated by the courts or the public," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says in a statement. "Politicians are not medical experts -- but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of making safe, legal abortion hard or even impossible to access."

See also: -Arizona's New Abortion Rules Temporarily Halted by Appeals Court

Richards' statement is not hyperbole, according to the experts. A brief in the case filed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists called the law "bad medicine," stating:

"The Arizona law jeopardizes women's health by requiring that physicians deny women the benefit of the most current, well-researched, safe, evidence-based, and proven protocols for the provision of medical abortion and, instead, prescribe a regimen that is outdated and less safe. By imposing a regimen that does not serve the best interests of patients, the law also requires that physicians depart from their ethical obligation to provide the best possible care for their patients using their sound medical judgment--insisting, rather, that physicians substitute the judgment of the Arizona legislature for their own."
The 2012 Arizona law and subsequent regulations crafted by the state health department mandate that doctors must comply with the FDA protocol for prescribing the pills used in medicated abortions.

According to the aforementioned medical organizations, the Arizona law effectively outlaws the most current evidence-based protocols on medicated abortion, without any good reason. The plaintiffs in the case have gone as far to suggest that the law may ban medicated abortions in Arizona outright, because one of the drugs in the procedure is technically prescribed for an "off-label" use.

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 this new law. Under the new regulations, that wouldn't have been an option for 800 of those women, Howard said.

"As a leading health care provider to women in Arizona, we want to protect women's health and safety, but these restrictions go against more than 14 years of medical research," Howard says in response to today's court ruling. "Proponents of this law say it protects women, but actually does otherwise."

Another part of this law, HB 2036, already was overturned by the courts. That provision banned abortions past 20 weeks of pregnancy, The law is one of nearly 20 anti-abortion laws pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy. Four of those laws have been overturned in court, according to the organization's own analysis.

The Supreme Court made no comment in declining to hear this case, along with a few dozen other cases.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley