New Lawsuit Challenges Arizona’s Unconstitutional Restrictions on Non-Surgical Abortion

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Regulations would severely limit—if not outright ban—access to medication abortion, force doctors to ignore best medical practices
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(PRESS RELEASE) Women’s health care providers filed a federal lawsuit late yesterday challenging Arizona’s unconstitutional restrictions on a non-surgical method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages using medication—restrictions that at best would make it harder, more dangerous, and more costly to obtain medication abortion and, at worst, ban the procedure entirely.

The vaguely-written regulations—which were initially signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2012 and are scheduled to take effect April 1, 2014­—unconstitutionally target medication abortion in such a way that would either ban the method outright or only allow doctors to offer medication abortion with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol, ultimately denying women access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations worldwide for over a decade. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, filed the lawsuit in Arizona federal district court on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Arizona and the Tucson Women’s Center. 

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Arizona politicians have imposed restrictions that go against years of scientific research and doctors’ practical experience in yet another effort to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion. 

“Politicians have no business practicing medicine and no place in women’s decisions about their health, their families, their future, and their lives. We now look to courts to protect women’s health, safety, and rights by putting a stop to this underhanded and unconstitutional attack on essential reproductive health care.”

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks choose this method. 

“These restrictions on a proven safe and commonly-used alternative to surgical abortion are blatant violations of Arizona women’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy,” said David Brown, staff attorney and lead counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights on today’s case. “Whether these regulations completely ban medication abortion or force women to take three times the necessary dose should they still chose medication as their method, Arizona is attempting to rob women of their constitutionally protected medical choices.” 

Women in Arizona have been subject to a litany of political attempts to restrict their access to abortion in recent years. Politicians have already limited medication abortion in Arizona by banning nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants from providing the service in 2011. Since then, many health care professional have stopped providing medication abortion altogether. Furthermore, Arizona politicians passed an unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks in 2012, which was ultimately struck down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a sound decision the US Supreme Court later refused to review. 

Harmful restrictions like these underscore the need for the federal Women’s Health Protection Act, a Congressional bill that would enforce and protect every woman’s access to safe and legal abortion care, no matter what state she happens to live in, maintaining the framework of regulations and limits recognized in Roe v. Wade.