Second Court Victory for Arizona Women in Two Days: District Court Continues to Block Law Forcing Doctors to Lie to Women

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Order comes after state officials admits expert is lacking one week before a scheduled trial
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(PRESS RELEASE) A federal district court judge today continued to block an Arizona law that forces doctors to mislead patients by telling them that it may be possible to “reverse” a medication abortion.  The order comes less than a week before a scheduled trial on the measure, which has been postponed. As part of the State's ask to postpone the trial, it cited the fact that “its primary expert” lacked the "publication and research background and experience" to be qualified as an expert witness.

This is the second time Arizona has agreed to put the measure on hold while the case continues. After the case was filed in June 2015, the state agreed to temporarily block the law a few weeks later.

Because there is no credible, medically accepted evidence that a medication abortion can be reversed, this law is opposed by medical experts, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Dr. Ilana Addis and Dr. Julie Kwatra, chairwoman and legislative chair of the Arizona Section of ACOG respectively, called the Arizona law “bad medicine” and “tantamount to quackery.” If it goes into effect, this law would force doctors to provide all patients seeking a safe, legal abortion — even patients who cannot have a medication abortion or who have chosen a surgical procedure — with medically inaccurate and misleading information that could be harmful to their health.

This is the second court victory for Arizona women in two days. Late yesterday, a state court judge permanently blocked a 2012 Arizona law that would severely limit women’s access to medication abortion, an extremely safe method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages.

 “Women seeking safe and legal abortion need high-quality care and accurate information, not lies dressed up as medicine,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “Today’s order ensures that facts will continue to prevail over politics.  We are confident that the flimsy justification for this law will continue to crumble and the measure will be struck down permanently.”       

“This junk science law would force doctors to lie to their patients and put women’s health at risk. In no other area of medicine would this stand — which is why we’re fighting in Arizona and across the country for women’s access to accurate information and safe, quality care,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

 “This law is another example of extreme politicians harming women by writing junk science into law—an unfortunately common practice in too many states across the country,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are happy that Arizona women will not be forced to receive false information from their doctors for the duration of this case. We will do everything in our power to make sure that the law never goes into effect.”

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with approximately one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy choosing this method if they’re eligible — in Arizona, the number is closer to half.

These harmful measures are part of a recent wave of restrictions on safe, legal abortion based on bad medicine, which prevent doctors from providing medical care based on the best evidence available and their best judgment.  For example, clinic shutdown laws have swept the country in recent years, threatening to block abortion access for countless women.  Clinic shutdown laws targeting Texas health care providers and the last abortion clinic in Mississippi are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, while health care providers in Louisiana await a federal court ruling on a state law that could shutter all but one clinic in the state. Courts have blocked similar sham laws in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, and Wisconsin.   

The plaintiffs in this case — Planned Parenthood Arizona, Eric Reuss, M.D., Paul A. Isaacson, M.D., Desert Star Family Planning, and DeShawn Taylor, M.D. — are represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Arizona, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PFFA), and Squire Patton Boggs.

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