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News Abortion

Arizona GOP Sides With Obsolete Medication Abortion Guidelines

Nicole Knight

The measure would force providers to follow 16-year-old FDA protocols for medication abortion care, rather than updated evidence-based practices supported by the medical community.

Arizona’s Republican-majority house approved a bill Wednesday requiring doctors to follow outdated standards on medication abortion that cost more for patients and increase potential side effects.

SB 1324 would force providers to follow 16-year-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocols for medication abortion care, rather than updated evidence-based practices supported by the medical community and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Medication abortion, a two-pill regime, would be available only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, compared to the current standard of nine weeks.

The preliminary house vote will need a final roll call vote before the bill can go to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, as the Arizona Capital Times reported. The state senate passed the measure in February.

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Republicans, who control both chambers of the state legislature, have wielded their influence in recent years to impose a rash of restrictions on abortion care.

Before Wednesday’s vote, Rep. Regina Cobb (R-Kingman), a dentist, broke ranks with the GOP to point out that SB 1324 makes no medical sense. She said the current procedures are safer than the GOP’s proposed changes.

Doctors have pointed out that off-label use of medicine is safe and common. A five-year study of 13,000 women published last year in the journal Contraception found that evidence-based alternatives to the FDA-approved regimen for medication abortion are safe and effective.

Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) insisted that the restriction “protects Arizona women … from the cost- and corner-cutting abortion industry.”

In a recent editorial, Dr. Ilana Addis, chairwoman of the Arizona section of ACOG, and Dr. Julie Kwatra, legislative chair of ACOG’s Arizona section, wrote the bill makes “pregnancy termination more costly and more inconvenient (requiring up to three doctor visits instead of one). Patients would have more side effects. Studies show they also have more complications.”

The house also voted in favor of bills to outlaw fetal tissue research (SB 1474) and bar state employees from donating to Planned Parenthood (SB 1485). Both measures, which have already cleared the state senate, now need a house roll call vote to head to the governor.

Arizona Republicans hold an 18-12 state senate majority and a 36-24 edge in the house.

“These are all bad bills and 1324 is the most objectionable,” Jodi Liggett, vice president of public affairs with Planned Parenthood Arizona, said in an email to Rewire. “Science and evidence based medicine is what doctors follow, not the direction of politicians with a social agenda. We are hopeful that policymakers will listen to medical professionals and their own constituents, and cross party lines to defeat this spiteful and ill-advised bill.”

This is the second go-around for the fetal tissue research ban and medication abortion restrictions. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit already blocked similar legislation, calling the language in the fetal tissue ban “vague” and the medication-abortion restrictions, which were included in an omnibus bill, unconstitutional.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), speaking in favor of the fetal tissue ban before a state senate panel last month, recounted debunked claims that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue.

Barto referenced the heavily edited and widely discredited smear videos published by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the leaders of which have been indicted on charges related to the videos. CMP officials have worked with GOP lawmakers across the country in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

Profiting from fetal tissue donation is already illegal under federal law.

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