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Judge rules medication abortion law unconstitutional

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The 2012 Arizona law that severely restricted medication abortions and has been put on hold by a federal court has now been found to violate the state’s constitution.

The ruling by Judge J. Richard Gama of Maricopa County hinges on a technical aspect of the law rather than on a woman’s right to abortion.

One portion of the statute requires that abortion drugs be taken only at the FDA-approved doses and only at clinics, although doctors have long been prescribing the two abortion drugs ai??i?? mifepristone and misoprostol ai??i?? together successfully.

Gama found that the law would make Arizona contingent on FDA protocols, meaning it would have to change every time the FDA approved or changed a drug label, in violation of the state constitution.

David Brown, a staff attorney for The Center for Reproductive Rights, applauded the ruling.

“The impact on women is important because the outcome is to allow doctors to rely on evidence, on science and their medical judgment,” Brown said.

Mia Garcia, spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, said the office was reviewing the ruling “to determine our next steps.”

The ruling Thursday was another blow to a law that already can’t be enforced because of a temporary injunction issued by a federal court of appeals. The law also bans women from taking the most common abortion-inducing drug, mifepristone, after the seventh week of pregnancy.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood sued in federal court over the restrictions, saying they severely infringed on a woman’s right to abortion.

Planned Parenthood Arizona has said about 800 women would have had to get surgical abortions in 2012 if the rules were in effect then. The organization says medication-induced abortions account for more than 40 percent of abortions at its clinics.

The state Legislature approved the restrictions in 2012. Arizona argues they protect women’s health by mandating a federally approved protocol.

In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration approved the medication’s use through the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone is prescribed with a second drug, misoprostol.

Since the FDA approval, medical researchers and clinical trials have shown mifepristone is effective in much smaller doses and for two weeks longer in a pregnancy, the organizations said. The second drug may be taken at home.

Brown said that the federal lawsuit has been on hold since the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a request by the state to reverse the temporary injunction. 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