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Ariz. Court Hears Arguments in Case Challenging Medication Abortion Restrictions

Ariz. Court Hears Arguments in Case Challenging Medication Abortion Restrictions

August 18, 2015 — An Arizona court on Friday heard arguments in a case challenging a state law that restricts medication abortion, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star reports.

According to CMS/Daily Star, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Richard Gama did not indicate when he would rule on the case. The law remains blocked while lawsuits continue in federal and state courts (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 8/14).

Background

The state law (HB 2036), enacted in 2012, would bar physicians from administering medication abortion drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy, among several other abortion-related provisions. Physicians also would be required to administer both drugs in the medication abortion regimen on site and at the dosage provided on the FDA label, which is higher than the dosage typically used in practice.

Planned Parenthood Arizona and other groups filed suit over the rules, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2014 issued a temporary injunction until a hearing could be held. The injunction reversed a federal judge's decision to allow the rules to take effect in April 2014.

In September 2014, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R) filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit ruling (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/3/14). According to CMS/Daily Star, the federal lawsuit argues that the law violates patients' rights to liberty and privacy by placing "an unconstitutional burden on their right to choose an abortion." The federal lawsuit also states that the law violates patients' "rights to bodily integrity" by preventing women seeking abortion care from opting for abortion medication rather than a surgical abortion (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 8/14).

Meanwhile, the Center for Reproductive Rights in April 2014 also filed suit against the medication abortion rules in Maricopa County Superior Court. CRR argued that the state Legislature does not have the authority to let FDA and drugmakers set state standards. In addition, the group argued that the state Health Services Department violated its public comment rules when the rules were published in January (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/9/14).

According to CMS/Daily Star, the federal case is on hold until the state lawsuit is decided. The federal lawsuit will not go forward if the state court holds that the law was not properly enacted.

Argument Details

During arguments in the case, CRR's David Brown said the law goes against common medical practice when administering medication abortion. He added that federal statutes and FDA regulations do not prohibit the off-label use of medication abortion drugs.

Further, Brown said curtailing to FDA's standards is tantamount to allowing FDA to write Arizona law, since FDA could choose to change its standards at any time. "Drug labels are not written by the Arizona Legislature or anybody accountable to it," he said.

Meanwhile, Steven Aden -- an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the law -- argued that the Arizona Legislature is not prohibited from adopting FDA standards, particularly when they deal with "very complex questions that are scientific or medical or engineering."

According to CMS/Daily Star, Gama did not disagree with Aden's claims. However, he expressed concern the adopted FDA standards could mean Arizona law could change without state legislators' approval if FDA changes its recommendations for the use of medication abortion drugs. Aden did not respond directly to Gama's concerns (Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 8/14).