News Law and Policy

State Court Permanently Blocks Arizona Restriction on Medication Abortion

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The ruling is the latest in a series of legal challenges to a 2012 law that prohibits the updated use of certain abortion-inducing medications.

A state court judge on Thursday permanently blocked a 2012 Arizona law that would severely restrict physicians’ ability to perform medication abortions.

The ruling is the latest in a series of legal challenges to HB 2036, a Republican-backed measure that mandates doctors follow only protocol established by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when administering “any medication, drug, or substance” to induce an abortion. The law is designed to restrict the use of RU-486, a combination of medications used to terminate pregnancies in their earliest stages.

In a 2012 parallel legal action, a federal district court blocked the measure from taking effect while a trial challenging the measure’s constitutionality proceeded in federal court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision in 2014. The federal case has been put on hold while the state court proceedings advanced.

Thursday’s ruling found the measure violates the Arizona state Constitution by allowing the FDA to make Arizona law.

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David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the ruling is “one more key victory in ensuring Arizona women continue to have access to all available options when it comes to their health, safety, and rights.”

“We are pleased that yet another court has found this law unconstitutional, but the attack on women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Arizona is far from over,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “It’s clear that politicians will stop at nothing to insert government and bad medicine into every exam room in Arizona.”

Meanwhile, a trial challenging another Arizona abortion restriction will begin next week. SB 1318, a GOP-sponsored law passed this spring, primarily bans state residents from purchasing any health insurance plan through the federal marketplace that includes abortion coverage. The law includes a mandate that abortion providers must tell patients both orally and in writing that they may be able to reverse the effects of a medically induced abortion—a scientifically inaccurate claim. This requirement is the first of its kind in the nation.

The provision was scheduled to take effect July 3, but reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit in June challenging the measure, arguing it violated the constitutional rights of both patients and providers.

Advocates argue that there is no credible evidence to support the state-mandated statement that medication abortions can be reversed, and that such a claim forces providers to steer their patients toward an experimental practice that has not been shown to work or to be safe. A federal judge blocked the measure from being enforced, pending the outcome of the trial.

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