Three weeks ago, the Arizona Legislature, heeding a call to “protect women’s health,” passed SB1324. This bill mandated that doctors adhere to an outdated medication protocol when administering drugs for a medication-induced abortion. Ignoring medical studies, scientific evidence, and the standard of care, our legislators said that in this case physicians had to follow the FDA precisely, as well as what was written on a drug label printed in 2000.
When the bill was sitting on Governor Ducey’s desk, the FDA issued a long-awaited update, which endorsed the evidence-based protocol physicians currently use. The FDA and the medication label now reflect the current standard of care. Now physicians, the FDA and the drug manufacture are all on the same page. Everyone agrees on best practices, right?
Despite medical evidence, Governor Ducey signed this bill into law. If this law takes effect, physicians won’t be just pinned to an outdated protocol, they will be forcing patients to adhere to an obsolete protocol – one that the FDA itself does not endorse now.
But . . . at least the charade is over.
Our legislators can now stop pretending that this law was ever about women’s health, or best medical practices. This law was about the Center for Arizona Policy’s desire to block access to abortion in any way they can. The group championed the FDA when it benefited their cause. Now they condemn it.
When he signed SB1324, Governor Ducey indicated that lawmakers may need to pass additional legislation to “fix” the law based on the new FDA label. As the bill stands now, Arizona law would force physicians to commit malpractice. At this point, the “fix” is uncertain, but the Center for Arizona Policy stated that they are working closely with lawmakers to address it.
On behalf of the Arizona Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, we unequivocally ask: Don’t fix the law. Repeal it.
The recent events prove that physicians must practice according to the standard of care, which changes over time as new evidence comes to light. The standard of care cannot and should not be dictated by lawmakers with no medical background but rather left to those who took an oath to provide patients with the safest, most effective care available. The updated label, though now the standard of care, also should not be frozen in time by Arizona law. The protocol will continue to change, as protocols always do.
Despite some legislators’ perspective, facts are important. Here are some we would like to share with our lawmakers:
- Half of all pregnancies in Arizona are unintended.
- The teen pregnancy rate in Arizona is above the national average.
- The state spends millions each year on unintended pregnancy, twice the national average per woman.
- Publicly funded family planning in Arizona averted thousands of unintended pregnancies, which could have resulted in over 6,700 abortions.
The Center for Arizona Policy claims that the goal of ACOG physicians is to “promote abortions and sell more abortions.” Really?
Our goal as women’s health care physicians is to care for women throughout their lives. A big component of that care is family planning and sexual education with the goal of avoiding unintended pregnancies. Note that there were exactly zero bills in this legislative session to promote those goals and prevent abortion.
If allowed to become law, SB1324 is headed to court, where it will undoubtedly be nullified. Arizona taxpayers have already paid out over one million dollars for similar laws that were overturned. We hope our lawmakers consider this while they debate the current budget.
Arizonans deserve better than SB1324.
Please repeal it.
Ilana Addis, MD, is chairwoman of the Arizona section, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Julie Kwatra, MD, is legislative chair, Arizona section, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.