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Federal Judge Rejects Request To Delay Hearings in Ariz. Medication Abortion Challenge Case

Federal Judge Rejects Request To Delay Hearings in Ariz. Medication Abortion Challenge Case

October 13, 2015 — A federal judge on Friday rejected a request to delay hearings on a challenge to an Arizona law (SB 1318) that requires doctors to provide medically unproven information to women about medication abortion, AP/ABC 15 Arizona reports (AP/ABC 15 Arizona, 10/9).

The underlying law took effect on July 3, but the medication abortion provision has been on hold pending a legal challenge.

Law Details

Among other provisions, the law's medication abortion restrictions would require physicians to tell women the medically unproven statement that administering high doses of progesterone could reverse a medication abortion. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no medically accepted evidence that medication abortion can be reversed.

Lawsuit Background

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law on behalf of Planned Parenthood Arizona and several other Arizona providers, requesting that the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona block the medication abortion provision from taking effect.

According to the lawsuit, the measure violates physicians' rights under the First Amendment by requiring them, "unwillingly and against their best medical judgment," to convey "a state-mandated message that is neither medically nor scientifically supported." In addition, the suit argues that the law violates patients' rights under the 14th Amendment because it requires them to receive "false, misleading and/or irrelevant information."

The lawsuit notes that while some doctors have "experimented" with administering high doses of progesterone, such practice "does not constitute credible, medically accepted evidence that the experimental practice is effective or safe."

In July, Arizona's health director asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/9).

Latest Developments

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Steven Logan denied an offer from the state attorney general's office that would have let Logan grant a preliminary injunction on the provision until a full trial on the law is held at a later time. According to Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, that offer would have removed the need for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 21.

Logan in an order Friday said he will not delay hearings in the case and that the full trial for the challenge will begin on Oct. 21. Logan reserved three days for the lawsuit.

David Brown, an attorney with CRR, said he did not expect the judge's decision, but that the change to the timeline should not harm the challenger's ability to present their case (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Star, 10/9).

Dan Pochoda, an attorney for the ACLU of Arizona, supported the judge's decision (ABC 15 Arizona, 10/9).