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Medication abortion trial postponed again

(Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

(Photo by Rachel Leingang, Arizona Capitol Times)

Next week’s scheduled hearing on the legality of an Arizona abortion restriction is off — again.

In a brief order Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Logan said it appears there are too many issues that remain unresolved to go ahead with a three-day trial on the law that requires women to be told that their medication abortions may be reversible. Logan did not set a new date.

But the judge did agree to accept an offer by the Attorney General’s Office to enter a preliminary injunction saying doctors and clinics do not have to comply with the law.

That, however, is no real change: The state had previously agreed not to enforce the law while it is being challenged.

The law in question deals with medication abortions. Women are given two drugs, one to kill the fetus and the second to expel it from the womb.

A state judge ruled just a day earlier that doctors can continue to provide medication abortions through the ninth week of pregnancy. He ruled a 2012 law trying to limit the procedure to just seven weeks is unconstitutional.

This law, approved earlier this year, is based on testimony that large doses of progesterone, administered after the first drug but before the second, can stop the process. It says doctors must personally inform women at least 24 hours before the procedure that “it may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion if the woman changes her mind but that time is of the essence.”

Doctors who do not comply face suspension or revocation of licenses; clinics found in violation can be closed.

Challengers said there is no medical evidence in the form of peer-reviewed scientific studies to back that contention.

The state and its allies, however, are relying on anecdotal evidence of live births and testimony from doctors who have performed the reversal procedure. That, they argue, provides enough evidence to justify the law and make it legally defensible.

Friday’s agreement for an injunction drew predictable responses from groups challenging the statute.

“This junk science law would force doctors to lie to their patients and put women’s health at risk,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a prepared statement. “In no other area of medicine would this stand.”

And Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called the state’s defense of the statute “flimsy justification.’

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