Arizona Women to Lose Access to Non-Surgical Abortion on April 1st

Federal court decision fails to block unconstitutional law restricting medication abortion from taking effect

(PRESS RELEASE) A federal district court has refused to block Arizona’s unconstitutional restrictions on non-surgical abortion— failing to ensure that after April 1st 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.

The regulations—which 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medication abortion in such a way that doctors will only be able to offer medication abortion with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol, the result of which will deny most Arizona women access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as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 earlier this month on behalf of Planned Parenthood of Arizona and the Tucson Women’s Center. 

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

“With today’s disappointing ruling, Arizona women’s constitutional rights and access to safe, high-quality reproductive health care have been diminished, simply by virtue of where they live.

“This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier, and less effective method.   This is what happens when politicians, not doctors, practice medicine.  

“We are committed to standing with Arizona health care providers and our partners in continuing this legal battle for women’s equal access to essential reproductive health care.” 

The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently evaluating all available means of continuing to challenge this and all laws that seek to undermine women’s fundamental rights.

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 choosing this method. 

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 and unconstitutional bans 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.