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Federal Judge Delays Hearing in Ariz. Medication Abortion Lawsuit

October 19, 2015 — A federal judge on Friday postponed a hearing over an Arizona law (SB 1318) that requires doctors to provide medically unproven information to women about medication abortion and issued a preliminary injunction against the statute, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Sun reports (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Arizona Daily Sun, 10/16).

Law Details

The underlying law took effect on July 3, but the medication abortion provision has been on hold pending a legal challenge. 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" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/13).

Meanwhile, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Richard Gama last week ruled that another state law (HB 2036) barring physicians from administering medication abortion drugs beyond seven weeks of pregnancy, among several other abortion-related provisions, violates the state constitution (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/16).

Latest Developments

In an order Friday, Logan said there were too many unresolved issues to move forward with the scheduled full trial (Capitol Media Services/ Arizona Daily Sun, 10/16). The state asked the court to delay the trial to allow for more preparation time and to find qualified experts, according to court records (Rau, Arizona Republic, 10/16).

Logan accepted the offer by the state attorney general's office to issue a preliminary injunction against the law, meaning that health care providers will not be forced to comply with the law. According to CMS/Arizona Daily Sun, the state already had said it would not enforce the law while the lawsuit continues.

Logan has not yet scheduled a new trial date (Capitol Media Services/ Arizona Daily Sun, 10/16).

Comments

Planned Parenthood Arizona President Bryan Howard said, "In no other area of medicine would this stand. It's clear that politicians will stop at nothing to insert government and bad medicine into every exam room in Arizona -- and we will fight back on behalf of our patients every step of the way" (Rau, Arizona Republic, 10/16).

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, "This junk science law would force doctors to lie to their patients and put women's health at risk,'' adding, "In no other area of medicine would this stand.''

Similarly, Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup called Arizona's defense of the law "flimsy justification" (Capitol Media Services/ Arizona Daily Sun, 10/16).