Planned Parenthood and a Tucson gynecologist are asking a federal judge to block new rules that will dramatically restrict the ability to perform abortions using drugs instead of surgery.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday night argues that regulations limiting doctors’ ability to use RU-486 violate patients’ rights to liberty and privacy by placing “an unconstitutional burden on their right to choose an abortion.” He also says he denies some women the right to terminate a pregnancy with a pill rather than surgery, violating patients’ “rights to bodily integrity.”
Prosecutors from Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights are asking U.S. District Court Judge Frank Zapata to initially block the rules from taking effect as scheduled on April 1. Eventually, they want the rules — and the 2012 law that required the Department of Health Services to adopt them — declared illegal.
The fight is mainly over the use of mifepristone, an abortion-inducing drug known as RU-486, and misoprostol, a drug that women take at home 24 to 48 hours later to ensure the fetus is expelled.
The 2012 law being implemented states that any drug used to induce an abortion must be administered “in accordance with the protocol authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration”, as stated in the final labeling instructions for that drug. .
In the case of RU-486, this only means up to the seventh week of pregnancy. But Planned Parenthood and Dr. William Richardson, who operates the Tucson Women’s Center, use it until the ninth week.
Removing medication from the equation means that a woman at this stage of pregnancy would have to undergo more complicated and expensive surgery.
But the 2012 law would also affect women who seek an abortion during the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
The FDA-approved procedure requires a higher dose of RU-486 given in two doses, by a physician, within 48 hours. This second dose adds approximately $90 to the cost for women, not including the cost and time of the required second visit a woman would have to make to a clinic to have this second pill administered by a doctor instead of being able to take it. at home.
“All of these burdens are of no medical benefit,” the lawsuit states. Instead, forcing doctors to follow FDA protocol could hurt women by forcing them to take three times as much medicine as they need.
The lawsuit argues that FDA protocols proved not entirely effective, which means a woman might then need to undergo surgery to complete the abortion.
Josh Kredit, an attorney for the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy who pushed for the legislation, said the restriction was justified. He said it’s up to the FDA and not individual doctors to decide when and how the drug can be used.
Kredit also claimed that abortion providers want to use the two-drug protocol for nine weeks for financial reasons.
“It’s Planned Parenthood that puts profits before people,” he said. Kredit said the organization decided to ignore FDA protocols because women prefer medical abortions and “it’s easier to sell it to them.”
But Kredit avoided multiple questions about how forcing women to undergo a more complex and expensive procedure to end their pregnancies means more money for Planned Parenthood.
Hundreds of women would be affected if the new rules take effect as planned.
Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said his organization has performed more than 5,000 abortions in the past full year on women in their first nine weeks of pregnancy. He said about half chose medical abortions.
And Howard said a third of those who took this route were actually past seven weeks, meaning a medical abortion would no longer be an option for them.
No one disputes that the drugs are used in Arizona in a way not specifically approved by the FDA. Erie Reuss, an obstetrician and gynecologist who is also on the board of Planned Parenthood, said that was nothing unusual.
He said the FDA has always allowed “off-label” use of all kinds of drugs. Reuss said the labeling is based on “an outdated FDA protocol,” which later medical research shows is unduly restrictive.
“The law requires physicians to ignore decades of medical research, the opinion of leading medical organizations, and their own clinical experience, and administer medical abortion in an outdated and inferior manner,” the lawsuit states.
Howard said the law could end access to all abortions in Flagstaff, forcing women to go to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic in Glendale. This is because her organization only has access to a legally required doctor one day a week, which means she is not available to administer a second dose of RU-486 24 to 48 hours later.
Howard, while saying the FDA protocols are out of date, said his organization has not asked the federal agency to review them. He said such a request can only be made by the manufacturer.
The track record of prosecutions on this issue is mixed.
Alice Clapman, attorney for Planned Parenthood, said similar restrictions apply in Ohio and Texas. But in both cases, she said the courts had agreed to allow off-label use of RU-486 on women where it was deemed necessary to protect their health.
But David Brown, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a similar law in that state, a decision the US Supreme Court declined to overturn. He also said a court in North Dakota came to a similar conclusion.
“So the picture is mixed,” Brown said.
This is not the first challenge to the 2012 law. That same legislation also contained a ban on abortions at 20 weeks gestation, a provision struck down by a federal court that was upheld by the US Supreme Court.
Other provisions of this 2012 law remain in force, including:
– Physicians who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
– All abortion clinics must have ultrasound equipment.
– Nurses must be present on site for follow-up and post-abortion care if a doctor is not available.
– Clinics must report each time a patient is transported by ambulance.