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Judge allows ban on medication abortions to take effect on Tuesday

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New restrictions on medication abortions will take effect Tuesday as had been scheduled.

U.S. District Court Judge David Bury issued an order late this afternoon rejecting a bid to block implementation while the legality of the 2012 law is litigated. Bury rejected the arguments by attorneys for Planned Parenthood and the 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.

Today’s order is far from the last word. Attorneys for the challengers still have an opportunity to prove to Bury that the restrictions violate the liberty and privacy rights of patients by imposing “an unconstitutional burden on their right to choose an abortion.” Challengers also contend that denying some women the right to terminate a pregnancy through a pill rather than through a surgical procedure violates patients’ “rights to bodily integrity.”

But in issuing the injunction, Bury had to conclude that the challengers are not likely to succeed with their claims after all is said and done.

The fight is over the use by the two medical organizations of mifepristone, an abortion-inducing drug known as RU-486, and misoprostol, a drug taken at home 24 to 48 hours later to ensure the fetus is expelled. Attorneys for challengers said their doctors have determined that combination is effective in terminating a pregnancy through the ninth week.

But the 2012 law that will now take effect spells out that any medication used to induce abortion must be administered “in compliance with the protocol authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” And the FDA has approved RU-486 only for the first seven weeks.

The ruling most immediately affects more than 800 women a year who are going to lose an option for the simpler procedure. These are women who last year had a medical abortion beyond seven weeks — the new limit under the Arizona law — but less than 10 weeks, which is the current practice.
The issue is even more critical in northern Arizona, where Planned Parenthood says having to follow the new state-mandated procedure will eliminate the option for all abortions at its Flagstaff clinic, where only medical abortions are allowed. That is because what the state wants requires a doctor to be available more than she is now.

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