Federal Court Denies Preliminary Injunction in AZ Abortion Case, but State Court Blocks Enforcement

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(PRESS RELEASE) Late today, the U.S. District Court of Arizona denied the Center for Reproductive Rights’ request to temporarily block enforcement of sweeping new abortion restrictions in the state that will significantly reduce women's access to abortion services and put physicians at risk of losing their licenses. The federal judge did acknowledge that a payment provision within the law was ambiguous, but did not issue an injunction against it.  Instead, he asked the Arizona Supreme Court for a definitive interpretation of the provision. The payment provision would prohibit a physician or any healthcare provider from charging for any services provided to a patient who inquires about abortion until after she has received the required informed consent counseling, even if the patient has no plans to get an abortion.

Planned Parenthood also filed a challenge against certain provisions of the same law in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, and late today that state court also ruled, granting a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of certain parts of the law.  Because of this injunction, women will not have to make two trips to a physician’s office in order to obtain an abortion, as would have been required if the law went into effect as written.

“We are disappointed that the federal court did not recognize the harms that this law will cause women in Arizona. Thankfully, the state court blocked enforcement of the parts of the law that would have had the most impact in making  it harder, or even impossible, for women—particularly those who are in abusive relationships, suffer from illness, and are poor—to get an abortion,” said Suzanne Novak, senior attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. She continued, “We will consider all the options for our clients as we move forward to make sure they and their patients will not suffer harm because of the law.”

The law, which is set to go into effect on September 30th, would have, as written, required a woman to make two separate trips to a physician's office in order to obtain an abortion:  one to hear state-mandated information in person and one for the procedure twenty-four hours after receiving the required counseling.  Because of the injunction ordered by the state court, women will be able to receive the law’s state-mandated information over the phone, avoiding the second trip that would have been required had the law gone into effect.

The two-trip requirement would impose an undue burden on a woman's right to choose abortion and furthermore jeopardize her health. 

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