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Legal challenge to Ariz. medication abortion 'reversal' law concludes

A federal court has formally concluded a lawsuit challenging an Arizona policy that required doctors to tell women medically unproven information, the Arizona Republic reports (Pitzl, Arizona Republic, 8/23).

The policy, which never took effect, had been effectively repealed earlier this year (Center for Reproductive Rights release, 8/23).

Background

The policy, which was part of a law that includes other abortion restrictions, would have required physicians to tell women the medically unproven statement that administering high doses of progesterone could reverse a medication abortion. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no medically accepted evidence that medication abortion can be reversed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the medication abortion restriction on behalf of Planned Parenthood Arizona and several other Arizona providers. A federal judge blocked the provision from taking effect while the lawsuit continued.

According to the plaintiffs, the measure would have violated physicians' rights under the First Amendment by requiring them, "unwillingly and against their best medical judgment," to convey "a state-mandated message that is neither medically nor scientifically supported." In addition, the plaintiffs argued that the law would have violated patients' rights under the 14th Amendment because it required them to receive "false, misleading and/or irrelevant information."

The plaintiffs said while some doctors have "experimented" with administering high doses of progesterone, such practice "does not constitute credible, medically accepted evidence that the experimental practice is effective or safe" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/19/15).

Repeal effectively ends lawsuit

In May, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed legislation (SB 1112) that effectively repealed the requirement that doctors tell women medically unproven information about medication abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/18). The ACLU's Dan Pochoda said the repeal addressed the concerns the lawsuit sought to remedy (Fischer, Capitol Media Services/Tucson.com, 8/24). Both parties agreed to end the lawsuit.

On Tuesday, a federal court formally ended the suit (Arizona Republic, 8/23). U.S. District Judge Steven Logan dismissed the challenge, noting that the repeal appeared to address the plaintiffs' concerns (Capitol Media Services/Tucson.com, 8/24).

Comments

Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said, "This reckless law was a prescription for bad medicine and government interference at its worst." He continued, "This is exactly why politicians need to leave the practice of medicine to medical professionals" (Arizona Republic, 8/23).

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, "Junk science has no place in medicine," adding, "[W]e are confident these unconstitutional restrictions on safe and legal abortion will continue to crumble across the country."

Andrew Beck, staff attorney at the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, stated, "Lawmakers should recognize that Arizona women deserve high-quality medical care -- not political ideology masquerading as medicine" (Center for Reproductive Rights release, 8/23).