9th Circuit Court of Appeals Protects Arizona Women’s Access to Non-Surgical Abortion

Access to critical health care remains intact during court challenge

(PRESS RELEASE) Late last night, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked Arizona’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion—ensuring that women in the state will continue to have access to a method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages using medication that has been proven safe by more than a decade of scientific evidence and medical practice.

Said David Brown, staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“The appeals court has recognized that Arizona women should not be denied access to critical reproductive care while yet another clearly unconstitutional attack on their health and rights makes its way through the courts. At least for the moment, women throughout the state can be assured that their ability to get the services they need from the health care professionals they trust remains intact.”

The regulations—which went were issued by the Department of Health Services on January 27, under the authority of a law signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2012­—unconstitutionally restrict medication abortion in such a way that doctors will only be able to offer medication abortion with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol, the result of which will deny most Arizona women access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as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 in March 2014 on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Arizona and the Tucson Women’s Center.  On March 31, a federal court failed to protect Arizona women’s constitutional right to non-surgical abortion and women’s health care providers and advocates immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse that decision.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Arizona from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.