A group of Arizona health care providers launched a fight on Thursday to overturn a recently enacted, controversial bill that would require doctors to lie to their patients by telling them it is possible to reverse a medication-induced abortion.
In a lawsuit backed by the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, medical providers—including Planned Parenthood—charge that the new act is a "violation of medical ethics" and antithetical to informed consent, scientific integrity, and medicine itself.
Senate Bill 1318, which Governor Doug Doucey signed at the end of March, is slated to take effect in early July. In addition to banning insurers from covering most abortions in plans sold through federal health-care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, the legislation also requires doctors to tell patients seeking an abortion that it "may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence."
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There is just one problem. There is no medically- or scientifically-accepted evidence to back up this allegation.
"Claims of medication abortion reversal are not supported by the body of scientific evidence, and this approach is not recommended in [American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] clinical guidance on medication abortion," states the organization in a recent fact sheet about the Arizona bill. "There are no ACOG guidelines that support this course of action."
"This interferes with the doctor-patient relationship in terms of informed consent, because it's important that we give scientifically accurate information that is appropriate to the standard of care."
—Julie Kwatra, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The requirement to share this false information, therefore, amounts to state-mandated medical malpractice, say providers.
"This is problematic on many levels," Julie Kwatra, an OBGYN and legislative chairwoman of the Arizona Section of American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told Common Dreams. "This interferes with the doctor-patient relationship in terms of informed consent, because it's important that we give scientifically accurate information that is appropriate to the standard of care. This would be giving them the wrong information, and anything that comes from a physician is going to sound like fact."
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, agreed. "This reckless law forces doctors to lie to their patients, and it puts women’s health at risk," she declared in a press statement.
The groups behind the legislation, including the conservative lobbying organization Center for Arizona Policy, will "go to any means to eliminate abortion for all," said Kwatra. "I don't think they are very oriented on science or medicine, and I don't think they care. These same groups have tried to put forth laws that do not take into account the life of the mother."
"This reckless law forces doctors to lie to their patients, and it puts women’s health at risk." —Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood
The law is not limited to the state: it has been pushed nationally by the group Americans United for Life, and some warn this and similar acts could constitute the next front in the state-level attack on reproductive rights.
The recently-passed bill is part of a years-long state-level legislative effort to chip away at reproductive rights in Arizona—efforts that have been fastidiously challenged, sometimes successfully, by reproductive justice advocates and health care providers.
Andrew Beck of Reproductive Freedom Project pointed out in a blog post that the legislation is "just one of a profusion of recent bills based on politics, not medicine, which are aimed at preventing women from getting an abortion or shaming and humiliating them if they do. In the first quarter of 2015 alone, more than 330 abortion restrictions were introduced in 43 states."
The law moves forward despite a recent poll which founds that the overwhelming majority of people in the United States believe that an abortion experience should be "informed by medically accurate information."
"This is not just an Arizona issue," said Kwatra. "Other states have passed this legislation, and this is being fought on a national level. I hope we set precedent in Arizona by having this law overturned."