Phoenix, AZ — Planned Parenthood Arizona is in court to protect the health and safety of Arizona women. In papers filed late yesterday with the U.S. District Court for Arizona, Planned Parenthood asks the court to declare unconstitutional a provision that may ban medication abortion entirely in Arizona, and at a minimum, would require physicians to follow an outdated and less effective protocol for medication abortion. The restriction is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2014, and is related to House Bill 2036, a 2012 package of restrictions on safe, legal abortion that also included an unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks that was struck down by federal courts.
The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Arizona et al. v. Humble, was jointly filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The plaintiffs who filed suit on behalf of themselves and their patients are Planned Parenthood Arizona, Inc. and Tucson Women’s Clinic.
“For decades, Arizona was a state that protected a woman’s right to make personal decisions about her own health care. But for the last several years, extreme and out-of-touch politicians have waged an all-out war on Arizona women and their access to safe, legal abortion and even cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic health care,” said Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona. “In addition to forcing doctors in Arizona to practice medicine in a way that goes against the research-driven guidelines by experts in women’s health, this regulation could deprive Arizona women of access to medication abortion altogether.”
Doctors in the United States have been safely and legally providing medication abortion for more than a decade. Arizona’s new regulation mandates that physicians reject current practice for medication abortion. It may ban this safe and early method of abortion entirely, and at a minimum, will require physicians to follow an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol that was used years ago prior to the FDA first approving one of the medications used in a medication abortion. This regulation goes against years of research and doctors’ practical experience.
“Planned Parenthood will continue to fight these dangerous laws with everything we have — and win. In the past two months alone, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review lower court decisions that struck down two other extreme Arizona laws,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “It’s clear that the same politicians are behind these harmful restrictions — and that the path to lasting change is new leadership in Arizona, to stop this cruel and misguided legislation from ever passing in the first place.”
Medication abortion is an extremely safe method of early abortion that has been available to women nationwide for at least thirteen years. The overwhelming majority of women who have chosen medication abortion have followed an evidence-based protocol different from the one that appears on the label for the medication used. This evidence-based practice is supported by women’s health experts because it is more effective, requires less medication, has fewer side effects, and requires fewer trips to the health care provider.
In response to similar restrictions in Texas that passed into law last summer, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) wrote: “Legislators should not block advances in medical care by prohibiting physicians from incorporating the best, and most current, scientific evidence into their patient care. Requiring physicians to follow a protocol that is scientifically proven to be inferior to other regimens is an unwarranted intrusion in the physician-patient relationship. The practice of medicine should be based on the latest scientific research and medical advances.” ACOG and the Society of Family Planning reiterate this point in new guidelines on medication abortion issued in March 2014, writing that: "Based on efficacy and adverse effect profile, evidence-based protocols for medical abortion are superior to the FDA-approved regimen."
The way drugs are administered often evolves after the FDA makes its original recommendations. This is called evidence-based medicine — when after years of use the medical community often prescribes medicines for different uses and in different doses based on new research and their experience. This is how aspirin came to be used to prevent heart attacks.
Since 2011, Arizona has enacted numerous restrictions that interfere with a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions, several of which have been blocked by court order, including:
- an unconstitutional ban on abortion at 20 weeks, which remains blocked by a court order that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review in January;
- an unlawful effort to exclude Planned Parenthood health centers from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), which remains blocked by a court order that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review in February; and
- a dangerous law that prevents highly trained nurses from providing medication abortion safely, which has resulted in a drastic reduction of access to early abortion statewide