Judge Allows Ariz. Medication Abortion Restrictions To Take Effect

April 1, 2014 — A federal judge on Monday refused to block medication abortion restrictions in Arizona, ruling instead that the regulations may take effect April 1 while a case over their constitutionality continues, the New York Times reports (Schwartz, New York Times, 3/31).

The medication abortion rules -- which are among several abortion-related regulations mandated under a 2012 state law (HB 2036) -- bar physicians from administering abortion-inducing drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy. Physicians also would be required to administer both drugs in the medication abortion regimen on site and at the FDA-approved dosage, which is higher than the dosage typically used in practice. The rules are among the harshest in the nation.

Planned Parenthood of Arizona sued the state over the proposed rules, asking the court to issue an injunction before the law takes effect. U.S. District Court Judge David Bury heard arguments from PPAZ and the state over the law's constitutionality last week (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/27).

Monday's Ruling

On Monday, Bury denied PPAZ's request, ruling that the regulations would not unduly burden women because they can still access surgical abortions. He said the facts that the process would become more costly and that some women would have to travel hundreds of miles at least twice to access a medication abortion "do not qualify as irreparable harm."

In addition, Bury said that it is "unlikely that plaintiffs will prevail on the merits of the constitutional claims" and that they "have not established serious questions going to the merits nor that the hardship balance tips sharply toward them" (New York Times, 3/31).

Bury concluded, "The court finds that the injunction is not in the public interest" (Galvan, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/31).


Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (R) said that Monday's ruling "would be an indication that [the state is] likely to win."

However, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the organization would continue to fight the law, adding, "It is outrageous that politicians are interfering in a doctor's ability to provide the highest quality medical care for women in Arizona" (New York Times, 3/31).

Similarly, David Brown -- an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents PPAZ in the case -- said in a statement, "This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier and less effective method" (Ingram, Reuters, 3/31).