Arizona Governor Signs Measure Reversing Restrictions on Medication Abortion

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Arizona Governor Signs Measure Reversing Restrictions on Medication Abortion

Measure is intended to resolve legal challenges blocking restrictions

WASHINGTON - Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed a measure into law late yesterday which effectively repeals many of the state’s most recent attempts to restrict access to medication abortion—a safe method of ending an early pregnancy that women in the United States have been using for nearly two decades.

Notably, the measure also states that it is intended to resolve the three ongoing legal challenges that have currently blocked the restrictions—which force doctors to lie to women by telling them it may be possible to “reverse” a medication abortion and require women to use the outdated FDA label--from taking effect.

“Arizona women have a right to high-quality, medically accurate information and health care services when they have made the decision to end a pregnancy,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“By forcing doctors to lie to their patients or requiring women to use an outdated method of ending an early pregnancy, Arizona politicians continued to ignore decades of scientific and medical evidence in order restrict women’s access to medication abortion.

“This measure remedies the most recent attacks on women’s access to safe, medically accurate, legal care. We urge Arizona lawmakers to continue this course and give up their relentless attacks on reproductive health care”

Specifically, the measure (SB1112) would:

  • fully repeal a measure (SB 1324) signed by Governor Doug Ducey (R) in March which would force women to use a method of medication abortion that appears on the outdated drug label originally approved by the FDA over 15 years ago in 2000. Remarkably, Governor Ducey signed the measure only two days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it approved a change to the label for medication abortion--sold under the label Mifeprex® in the United States--in order to better reflect current medical practice and knowledge gained from scientific evidence accumulated over recent years. Flying in the face of advances in medicine and science, SB 1324 would have required women to follow the protocol on the outdated label, which was based on data from the 1990s.

    B 1324 amended an older law—a provision of a 2012 measure known as HB 2036—which also would have required women to follow the outdated regimen. The 2012 restrictions on medication abortion had never taken effect due to two (one in state court, one in federal court) successful legal challenges from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood. SB 1324 had been an attempt to fix one of HB 2036’s constitutional flaws, which had formed the basis of the successful state court challenge against it.
  • remove a requirement found in a 2015 measure that forces doctors to lie to women by telling them that it may be possible to “reverse” a medication abortion. The measure has never taken effect due to a successful legal challenge from the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood.

Arizona legislators still have a long way to go before fully restoring women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services. Governor Ducey also signed a bill yesterday which threatens to strip Medicaid funding from doctors who also provide abortions services--potentially limiting access to essential healthcare like birth control, cancer screenings, and prenatal care.

Case histories

2012 medication abortion restrictions requiring women to use outdated FDA label

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, filed the challenge to in the medication abortion restrictions of HB 2036 in March 2014. On March 31, a federal trial court failed to block the restrictions; women’s health care providers and advocates immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse that decision, a request which the court granted temporarily a few days later. In a unanimous opinion issued in June 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the trial court decision—ensuring that women in the state continued to have access to medication abortion. In December 2014, the U.S Supreme Courtdeclined to review the restrictions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America also filed a case in state court challenging the law on separate, state grounds in April 2014. That lawsuit was successful when a state superior court permanently blocked the restrictions from taking effect in October 2015. Recently, the state moved to appeal the October ruling. The federal case has been on hold as the state lawsuit progresses.

Measure forcing doctor to lie to women about possibility of “reversing” a medication abortion

The Center for Reproductive Rights—along with attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arizona, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PFFA), and Squire Patton Boggs—filed a challenge to the state law in June 2015. A few weeks later, the state temporarily agreed to block the law. In October 2015, the state requested the federal district court further postpone trial while continuing to block the law. The state said it need additional months to prepare because its “primary expert” lacked the "publication and research background and experience" to be qualified as an expert witness.

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The Center for Reproductive Rights uses the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.

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