Arizona's Medicated-Abortion Restrictions Take Effect Today After Surviving Court Challenge

A federal judge denied Planned Parenthood's request for a temporary injunction against new abortion regulations that limit the use of abortions by medication in the state.

The new regulations take effect today.

See also:
-Arizona's New Regulations on Medicated Abortion Draw a Lawsuit
-Window for Medicated Abortions to Be Shortened Under Arizona Health Regulations

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 for administering those drugs.

The FDA's protocol 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 (their method also requires that "off label" use of the medication).

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights groups argued this law will cause irreparable harm to some women.

Consider that Planned Parenthood just recently resumed abortion services at its Flagstaff clinic -- the only place in Arizona an abortion can be obtained north of Phoenix. However, that clinic only provides medicated abortions, not surgical abortions, due to a variety of circumstances and regulations.

Thus, women who are eight or nine weeks pregnant in northern Arizona would have to travel perhaps hundreds of miles to Phoenix, and arrange an overnight stay in Phoenix, due to state laws requiring two trips to the clinic.

"Whether or not these factors are substantial obstacles to abortion remains to be seen, but based on the limited record before the Court they do not qualify as irreparable harm," U.S. District Judge David C. Bury ruled, as he denied the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona CEO Bryan Howard released a statement in response, saying women are suffering in Arizona thanks to politicians.

"It is appalling that politicians are overriding doctors' ability to provide the highest quality medical care for women in Arizona," Howard says. "In fact, they are dictating to physicians how to provide care, rather than allowing doctors to follow the best, most up-to-date practices. And, the court agreed that this is precisely what Arizona politicians are allowed to do. Lawmakers have the ability to make laws, even if they harm women."

Howard previously 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.

A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman says the organization is considering its next steps in the court battle.

The law that forced this regulation was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, with a claim that the "health and safety of women" was in jeopardy with use of the abortion medications. The Center for Arizona Policy claims 21 women have died from use of the abortion medications.

A quick Google search shows that more than a decade ago, WebMD reported that Viagra was linked to 522 deaths. Arizona has no specific laws for how doctors must prescribe Viagra.

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