Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Temporarily Blocks Arizona Medication Abortion Rules

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Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Temporarily Blocks Arizona Medication Abortion Rules

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The temporary, emergency order will stay in place through Monday while the federal appeals court considers advocates' request to block regulations they claim threatens access to medication abortions statewide.

On Wednesday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a temporary emergency injunction blocking a lower court’s order that allows severe new restrictions on medication abortions from taking effect in Arizona.

Reproductive health advocates and providers filed their appeal just one day after the ruling and asked the Ninth Circuit to reverse the lower court’s order. Wednesday’s temporary injunction by the Ninth Circuit will remain in place through Monday while the federal appeals court considers that request.

“Arizona women should not be denied their constitutional rights or their ability to get critical health care from the medical professionals they trust while this unconstitutional law continues to make its way through the courts,” said David Brown, staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement following the appeal. “We are confident that the Ninth Circuit will do what the lower court’s ruling failed to do: protect women’s rights and health by preserving the same safe and legal access to non-surgical abortion that Arizona women have had for over a decade.”

At issue in the lawsuit are regulations that require abortion providers to follow outdated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocol when administering medication abortions. Advocates and health-care providers argue this protocol is inferior and less effective, because it prevents doctors from off-label use of abortion medications in such a way that violates the standard of patient care. According to advocates, if the Arizona rules are allowed to go into effect, the result will be to deny most Arizona women access to an alternative to surgical abortion that has been widely recognized as safe and effective by medical experts and organizations worldwide for over a decade.

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Arizona’s medication abortion restrictions are similar to those passed in states like Texas that have also sought to severely restrict, if not ban altogether, the practice of medication abortion, despite concerns raised by the medical community. Last year, the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out against the efforts in Texas and elsewhere to dictate medical practice by forcing physicians who prescribe medication abortions to follow FDA protocol. Yet despite opposition from the medical community, federal and state courts have split on blocking similar restrictions. Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld similar restrictions in Texas, while another federal court did the same for Ohio. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down that state’s medication abortion restriction, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court declined to overrule, while a state court in North Dakota blocked a similar law there.