Arizona Relaxes Abortion-Pill Restrictions

     PHOENIX (CN) — The Arizona Legislature voted Friday to repeal a law requiring abortion clinics to follow outdated protocols, and a law forcing doctors to tell patients that a medication abortion can be reversed.
     The Arizona House voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 1112, a month after the Arizona Senate did the same.
     The bill strikes the requirement in Senate Bill 1324 that “any medication, drug or other substance used to induce or cause a medication abortion be administered in compliance with the Mifeprex final printing label protocol approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and in effect as of Dec. 31, 2015.”
     It also removes the requirement that medical professionals must tell women that medication abortions may be reversed, and that information on reversing the effects be made available on the Arizona Department of Health Services website.
     Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1324 into law in March, requiring clinics to follow federal guidelines as they were on Dec. 31, 2015 for administering an abortion-inducing drug.
     Ducey’s signature came a day after the Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines relaxing protocols.
     Under the new guidelines, the FDA now allows women to take mifepristone up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy to induce an abortion. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, a hormone needed to maintain pregnancy, and increases the efficacy of a second medication that causes the uterus to contract and end the pregnancy.
     Women may also now take the second medication at home instead of at the doctor’s office.
     After his signature, Ducey indicated in a letter to Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan that he would consider signing off on changes to the bill.
     “At the time SB 1324 was passed, the FDA had not updated its label in 15 years, and there was no indication that an update was imminent,” Ducey wrote. “I recognize that given the unexpected actions by the FDA, some changes may need to be made in a later bill, and I stand ready to consider those changes when they reach my desk.”
     The bill also repeals Senate Bill 1318, a 2015 law requiring medical professionals to tell women within 24 hours of a medication abortion that it may be possible to reverse the effects.
     Planned Parenthood sued the state this past June, claiming SB 1318 was unconstitutional and required doctors to lie to their patients. A federal judge temporarily blocked the law in October.
     “These medication-abortion laws force doctors to treat their patients based on political ideology rather than science and medical judgment,” Andrew Beck, staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “The repeal is good news, but it shouldn’t take lawsuit after lawsuit for Arizona politicians to let doctors be doctors and to do the right thing by women and families.”
     The ACLU decried the Legislature’s budgetary decision to limit how much nonprofit healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood can bill the federal government for medications provided to Medicaid recipients.
     “Arizonans deserve elected officials who will work to ensure that we all have access to high-quality medical care, not politicians who will stand in our way,” ACLU of Arizona policy director Will Gaona said. “Arizona politicians have sunk to new depths in their quest to show just how antiabortion they are, this time passing a bill designed to cut off a low-income woman’s access to birth control and prenatal and maternity care.”

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