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Ariz. Medication Abortion Measure Will Not Take Effect as Scheduled

Ariz. Medication Abortion Measure Will Not Take Effect as Scheduled

June 17, 2015 — A component of an Arizona law (SB 1318) that would require abortion providers to tell women medically unproven information about medication abortion will not take effect as scheduled, AP/ABC News reports (AP/ABC News, 6/16).

The measure was supposed to take effect on July 3, but it has been delayed pending a hearing in federal court (Beard Rau, Arizona Republic/USA Today, 6/16). The law's other provisions will take effect as scheduled (Grado, Arizona Capitol Times, 6/16).

Law Details

The law's medication abortion provision 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.

In addition, the law will bar women in the state from purchasing health plans that include abortion coverage on the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) insurance marketplace. The restrictions do not apply to pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, or when a pregnancy threatens a woman's life.

The law also will require physicians to provide documentation to the state Department of Health Services showing that they have hospital admitting privileges. The records will not be made available to the public.

Lawsuit Details

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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/11).

Plaintiffs, State Agree to Temporary Hold Amid Trial Delays

State officials and the plaintiffs agreed to put a temporary hold on enforcing the law after the state disclosed that a key witness was not available for a scheduled hearing on the lawsuit on June 23.

U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan has not yet approved the agreement to delay the law's enforcement. However, according to the Republic/USA Today, such approval is considered a formality when both sides have already signed off on it (Arizona Republic/USA Today, 6/16). If approved, the delay will remain in place until Logan determines whether a longer-term delay is needed, the Capitol Times reports (Arizona Capitol Times, 6/16).

The two sides requested that the hearing be rescheduled for September or October (Arizona Republic/USA Today, 6/16). They said Sept. 9 is the earliest they can appear in court.

According to the Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Sun, hearings are expected to take three days, meaning mid-September is the earliest Logan could make a decision (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Sun, 6/16).