National Partnership for Women & Families

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Op-ed calls on Ariz. House lawmakers to oppose bill to restrict medication abortion

Arizona lawmakers who oppose abortion rights are again trying to require "physicians to prescribe medication [abortion drugs] with an outdated FDA protocol," Ilana Addis, chair of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' (ACOG) Arizona section, and Julie Kwatra, legislative chair of ACOG's Arizona section, write in an Arizona Capitol Times opinion piece.

They note that the Arizona Legislature in 2012 passed a similar law "that forced doctors to practice against the standard of care" under the guise of "protecting women's health." According to the authors, "That law was extensively litigated in both state and federal court, at the taxpayer's expense" and eventually was "found in violation of the Arizona constitution and overturned."

"This 'new' legislation [SB 1324] is almost exactly the same, with some wording changes to reverse the outcome of the lawsuit," Addis and Kwatra write. They explain that the bill "dictates how a physician can prescribe medication to a woman seeking a [medication abortion]" and requires a physician "to prescribe in accordance with the original medication labeling, which was printed fifteen years ago."

According to Addis and Kwatra, a more recent protocol "uses lower medication doses, is more effective, safer, and more convenient for the patient." Citing endorsements from ACOG and several other health organizations, they note that the updated protocol "has been widely used for years and is the current standard of care." The authors explain that "[m]edication labels and FDA protocols are often frozen in time while science moves forward," given that the updating process is "time consuming and costly." They add, "Off-label use is common and safe; in fact, the FDA itself endorses off-label prescribing if it is evidence-based."

Addis and Kwatra write, "The goal of [SB 1324] is easy to decipher: It is meant to limit women's access to safe, legal, and evidence-based abortion services. ... by making pregnancy termination more costly and more inconvenient (requiring up to three doctor visits instead of one)."

"[T]his bill does not protect or promote women's health," they continue, noting, "Abortion (either medication-induced or surgical) is extremely safe with a low complication rate."

Addis and Kwatra write that they "uniformly oppose government intrusion into the practice of medicine, especially when that intrusion runs counter to the standard of care and evidence-based practice." Noting that they "cannot think of another specialty where the Legislature is so invasive," the authors note that the measure also would "intrud[e] upon the doctor-patient relationship ..., interfering with a physician's ability to use his or her own professional judgment for each patient's unique circumstances."

"If this [bill] passes," Addis and Kwatra write, "it will again be mired down in litigation, at the taxpayer's expense." They conclude, "We encourage our legislators in the House to oppose this bill" (Addis/Kwatra, Arizona Capitol Times, 3/21).