News Law and Policy

Arizona Federal Court Refuses to Block Restrictions on Medication Abortions

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The ruling means that abortion providers in Arizona will be forced to adhere to outdated protocol when performing medication abortions.

On Monday, a federal court in Arizona ruled that a new law and regulations may take effect April 1 to severely restrict access to medication abortion.

In April of 2012, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a measure that requires the state Department of Health Services to issue regulations restricting medication abortion in such a way that doctors will only be able to offer medication abortion with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol. The department issued those regulations in January of this year, and in March the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed a lawsuit in Arizona federal district court, on behalf of Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Tucson Women’s Center, requesting that the court block the law while a trial on its constitutionality proceeded. That request was denied.

“It is appalling that politicians are overriding doctors’ ability to provide the highest quality medical care for women in Arizona,” said Bryan Howard, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, in a statement following the decision. “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,”

Representatives for both Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Center for Reproductive Rights say they are evaluating all available means of continuing to challenge the law. “We are committed to standing with Arizona health care providers and our partners in continuing this legal battle for women’s equal access to essential reproductive health care,” said David Brown, staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement.

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The limitations on medication abortion are just the latest in a wave of anti-choice measures to sweep through the state. In 2011, state lawmakers limited medication abortion access in Arizona by banning nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants from providing the service. Arizona lawmakers also passed an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban in 2012, which was ultimately struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—a decision the U.S. Supreme Court later refused to review.

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