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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Arizona Sued Over Abortion Drug Limits

(CN) - Abortion providers challenged an Arizona law that bans drug-induced abortions after seven weeks instead of nine.

In their federal lawsuit in Arizona, Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women's Center say portions of House Bill 2036, set to take effect April 1, "potentially bans medication abortion in Arizona altogether."

The law requires abortion providers to administer mifepristone and other abortion-inducing drugs according to the protocol outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000.

The FDA limits mifepristone for use in abortions at or before seven weeks gestation, but abortion providers have been prescribing it up to nine weeks.

Providers argue that this "off-label" use has been recognized by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as "preferable to the regimen that appears on the mifepristone label."

"[I]t is safer, more effective, less expensive, less burdensome, and may be used later in pregnancy," the providers claim, saying their regimen is now "the standard of care."

"It is standard medical practice for physicians to prescribe FDA-approved drugs in dosages and for indications that were not specifically approved or contemplated by the FDA, particularly when supported by adequate study," they add.

HB 2036, passed into law in April 2012, would "unquestionably" prevent some women from getting drug-induced abortions -- particularly low-income women and victims of rape or abuse -- and would set health care providers back 20 years, according to the lawsuit.

"At the very least, and without any medical justification, the law requires physicians to ignore decades of medical research, the opinion of leading medical organizations, and their own clinical experience, and administer medication abortion in an outdated and inferior manner," the plaintiffs claim.

Planned Parenthood Arizona and Dr. William Richardson of the Tucson Women's Center seek an order declaring the provision unconstitutional and barring Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble from enforcing it.

They say HB 2036 violates their patients' constitutional rights to liberty, privacy, bodily integrity, equal protection and due process.

The law originally also banned abortions at or before 20 weeks, but the 9th Circuit struck down that provision last May. A three-judge panel said the restriction was unconstitutional because it "deprives the women to whom it applies of the ultimate decision to terminate their pregnancies prior to fetal viability."

A healthy fetus generally becomes viable around 23 to 24 weeks.

Plaintiffs challenging the medication-abortion provision are represented by attorneys with the Planned Parenthood Federal of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, and by Lawrence Rosenfeld of Squire Sanders in Phoenix.

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