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Federal District Court Ends Legal Challenge to Unconstitutional Arizona Law Forcing Doctors to Lie to Women, Ensuring Law Will Never Take Effect

Ruling comes less than two months after nation’s highest court issues historic ruling reaffirming a woman’s constitutional right to safe, legal abortion

(PRESS RELEASE) A federal district court judge today ended the legal challenge to an unconstitutional Arizona law that forces doctors to mislead patients by telling them that it may be possible to “reverse” a medication abortion.  The measure—which has never taken effect because of a successful legal challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU—would have applied to any woman in Arizona seeking safe and legal abortion care, even those women who cannot have a medication abortion or have chosen a surgical procedure.

Today’s ruling comes three months after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed a measure into law which effectively repealed many of the state’s most recent attempts to restrict access to medication abortion—including this measure.  The repeal measure signed by Governor Ducey took effect on August 6, therefore making the requirement forcing doctors to lie to women obsolete. 

Today’s ruling also comes less than two months after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt--the most significant abortion-related ruling from the Court in more than two decades.

“Women should never be force-fed lies and misinformation about their health in order to advance a political agenda,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Junk science has no place in medicine and we are confident these unconstitutional restrictions on safe and legal abortion will continue to crumble across the country.”

Because there is no credible, medically accepted evidence that a medication abortion can be reversed, this law is opposed by medical experts, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Dr. Ilana Addis and Dr. Julie Kwatra, chairwoman and legislative chair of the Arizona Section of ACOG respectively, called the Arizona law “bad medicine” and “tantamount to quackery.” 

“The repeal of this unjustified restriction is good news for women, but it shouldn’t have taken a year in court to convince Arizona politicians to keep junk science out of the exam room,” said Andrew Beck, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “Lawmakers should recognize that Arizona women deserve high-quality medical care—not political ideology masquerading as medicine.”

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with approximately one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy choosing this method if they’re eligible — in Arizona, the number is closer to half. 

“This reckless law was a prescription for bad medicine and government interference at its worst. This is exactly why politicians need to leave the practice of medicine to medical professionals,” said Bryan Howard, President of Planned Parenthood Arizona. “We will never stop fighting for our patients and every person’s right to accurate medical information and safe, compassionate care.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Arizona politicians have tried to restrict women’s access to medication abortion; in 2012, Arizona passed a measure which would force women to use a method of medication abortion that appeared on the outdated drug label originally approved by the FDA over 15 years ago in 2000.  This restriction has never taken effect due to two (one in state courtone in federal court) successful legal challenges from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood.  Both the state and federal challenges against that law are also expected to conclude in the coming months.

Case History

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 agreed to allow the law to be temporarily blocked. 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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