The Arizona Capitol Times reported today that “The U.S. Supreme Court is going to decide Friday whether to hear a dispute over Arizona’s requirement for doctors to use federal standards in administering medication [chemical] abortions.” As of this afternoon, Gary Grado’s story is the sole source that the High Court will address HB 2036 this week.
Passed in 2012, HB 2036 requires that any abortion-inducing drugs be administered “in compliance with the protocol authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” In 2000, the FDA approved the two-drug RU-486 combination for use only for the first seven weeks of pregnancy, and only when given in two doses on separate days, each one administered by a physician.
In January the chemical abortion regulations were issued by the Arizona Department of Health Services under the authority of a law signed by Governor Jan Brewer, tracking the FDA regimen.
The plaintiffs argued that the two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol had been used safely through nine weeks and to limit their use to seven weeks is “an unconstitutional burden on their right to choose an abortion.”
The plaintiffs want the period the combination can be used extended from seven weeks to nine weeks and for the woman to take the second drug at home. They told U.S. District Judge Bury, who presided over the case, that the limitation would affect 800 women who take the combination after the seventh week and before the tenth week of pregnancy.
But on April 3, two days after Judge Bury refused to block the law’s enforcement while deciding the legal issue, a three-judge panel of the ultra-pro-abortion 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction blocking Arizona’s regulations which were scheduled to take effect April 1. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne subsequently filed papers asking the United States Supreme Court to allow the law to take effect while the case is litigated.
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Horne noted that federal courts have already upheld similar but not identical protocols in Ohio and Texas. (See nrlc.cc/1hw7hB7 and nrlc.cc/1mwrasc).
At the time, Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, called the move “another effort by extremist Arizona politicians to restrict access to abortion and contraception.”
Under the FDA protocol, the woman first takes mifepristone which kills the baby, and then, on day three, takes misoprostol, a prostaglandin, which induces labor. Both are “provided by or under the supervision of a physician.”
In testimony at the trial, the attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) conceded the use of the prostaglandin misoprostol is “off-label,” but argued the “medical community” has found that it is safe to use the two drugs in different quantities than recommended by the FDA and up to nine weeks in pregnancy.
Judge Bury rejected the argument of lawyers for Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center “that the burdens on them and their clients of having to live within the law in the interim outweighed the state’s interest in imposing the regulations,” according to reporter Howard Fischer.
Harkening back to Supreme Court precedents, Bury held that HB 2036 did not place an “undue burden” on the right to abort or place a “substantial obstacle” in the exercise of that right.
In his 14-page ruling, Bury said that on its face the laws reflects the legitimate goals of the Arizona legislature to protect women from “dangerous and potentially deadly off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs” and require abortionists to adhere to the procedures tested and approved by the FDA.
“In other words, the primary, if not the sole, purpose of the statute is maternal health,” Judge Bury wrote. “The government has a legitimate interest in advancing the state of medical knowledge concerning maternal health and prenatal life.”
He concluded that the injunction sought by Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center “is not in the public interest.”
But Judge Bury had barely decided to refuse to block the law’s enforcement when the 9th Circuit granted a temporary stay. In June the panel blocked the law, holding, “Plaintiffs have introduced uncontroverted evidence that the Arizona law substantially burdens women’s access to abortion services, and Arizona has introduced no evidence that the law advances in any way its interest in women’s health.”
LifeNews.com Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. This post originally appeared at National Right to Life News Today.