(PRESS RELEASE)—A federal district court yesterday ended the legal challenge to an unconstitutional Arizona law which severely restricted a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion. The measure—which was challenged successfully by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood—would have forced a woman who decided to end her pregnancy with medication abortion to use a method that appears on the outdated, inferior, and less effective drug label originally approved by the FDA over 15 years ago in 2000.
The order comes four months after Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed a measure into law which effectively repealed many of the state’s most recent attempts to restrict access to medication abortion—including this law. The repeal measure signed by Governor Ducey took effect on August 6, rescinding the requirement forcing women to use the outdated, inferior, and less effective method. The repeal measure also revoked an Arizona law which forced doctors to mislead patients by telling them that it may be possible to “reverse” a medication abortion, a federal district court judge dismissed that challenge last month, also ensuring the measure will never take effect.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Yesterday’s order ensures a woman’s ability to get the highest quality and most current medical care cannot be held hostage by politicians opposed to safe and legal abortion.
“These baseless, unscientific restrictions should never have been enacted in the first place.”
Yesterday’s order also comes less than three 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 in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade. Nearly half of Arizona women who make the decision to end a pregnancy choose this method if they’re medically eligible, which is higher than the national average.
Said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Today’s decision is a win for Arizona women. This law would have forced doctors to use outdated medical protocol, ignoring years of research and what’s best for their patients. Politicians don’t practice medicine, doctors do. At Planned Parenthood, we never back down, and we will never stop fighting for our patients right to safe, legal abortion.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America filed this challenge to Arizona’s medication abortion restrictions on March 4, 2014 on behalf of Arizona women’s health care providers. On March 31, a federal trial court failed to block the restrictions, women’s health care providers and advocates immediately asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to reverse that decision, a request which the court granted temporarily a few days later. In a unanimous opinion issued in June 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the trial court decision—ensuring that women in the state continued to have access to medication abortion. In December 2014, the U.S Supreme Court declined to review the restrictions.
The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America also filed a case in state court challenging the law on separate, state grounds in April 2014. The lawsuit was successful when the superior court permanently blocked the restrictions from taking effect in October 2015, although the State’s appeal kept the case alive for several months more.
The federal challenge dismissed yesterday had been on hold as the state case had progressed, both challenges have now concluded.