New Az abortion limits may face federal injunction
Arguing that new rules governing the use of abortion medication are a burdensome restriction to the rights of women in Arizona, lawyers from Planned Parenthood presented their case before a federal judge in Tucson on Wednesday morning.
U.S. District Judge David C. Bury presided over the hearing at the Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse, 205 W. Congress St.
At the heart of the case is how doctors prescribe the medication RU-486. New rules, created by a controversial 2012 abortion bill, will come into effect next Tuesday. Planned Parenthood is seeking an injunction to halt the rules from taking effect.
Often called the "abortion pill," the medication has been widely used since 2000 after approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However in the last 15 years, doctors have adjusted how they prescribe the medication, giving a lower dose and allowing for the use of a second round of medication at home. Doctors have prescribed the medication up to the ninth week of pregnancy, beyond the seven weeks laid out in the original FDA guidelines.
The Arizona law, however, would require doctors to go back to the original FDA recommendations, creating an unnecessary hardship for hundreds of women in the state, according the Alice Clapman, a lawyer with Planned Parenthood.
"This would present an undue burden," said Clapman during arguments before Bury. Limiting the use of the medication would require more surgical procedures, something some women fear and could entail its own risks.
"This isn't about women's health," she said, "and there is no dispute that the current regimen has the lowest risk to women."
Assistant Attorney General Michael Tyron challenged this, arguing that Planned Parenthood has been "experimenting with the protocols."
"They claim that their current protocol is safest thing in the world, but the FDA hasn't approved it," he said.
"There is no way that anyone could look at this could claim that this has been untested," said Clapman. "Over 700,000 women have done this and the protocol been studied in peer-reviewed journals."
The judge listened to arguments for just over an hour, at one point asking how a possible injunction would affect both sides.
Clapman argued that dozens of women, already scheduled to receive abortions would have to wait. Tyron argued that the state would pursue another hearing, and need time to build a case, but could present more evidence including an expert witnesses.
"They filed this at the last moment to put us in a corner," said Tyron.
Bury did not offer a decision, but is poised to issue a ruling on the request for an injunction before the law takes effect Tuesday.
Arizona follows four other states that have attempted similar legislation. Ohio and Texas were successful after challenges in federal court, but state courts in Oklahoma and North Dakota have blocked similar measures.
According to the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists "off-label" use is appropriate and both groups have challenged Arizona's law.
RU-486, known as mifepristone, is a different drug than the Plan B "morning-after pill," although the two drugs are commonly confused. Plan B contains a higher dose of the same hormones found in regular oral contraceptives.