By Dave Andrusko
Monday afternoon U.S. District Court Judge David Bury rejected a bid by Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center to block implementation of a 2012 law that regulates how the two-drug RU-486 abortion technique is administered while the law is litigated.
Arizona’s HB 2036, which will take effect today, says that any abortion-inducing drugs must be administered “in compliance with the protocol authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” In 2000, the FDA approved RU-486 for use only for the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
In January the Arizona Department of Health Services issued rules tracking the FDA regimen. Previously women had used the drugs through nine weeks of pregnancy. The plaintiffs argued that the two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol has been used safely and to limit their use to seven weeks is “an unconstitutional burden on their right to choose an abortion.”
Judge Bury rejected the argument of lawyers for Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center “that the burdens on them and their clients of having to live within the law in the interim outweighed the state’s interest in imposing the regulations,” according to reporter Howard Fischer.
Under the FDA protocol, the woman first takes mifepristone which kills the baby, and then a day later takes misoprostol, a prostaglandin, which induces labor. Both are administered by the abortionist.
The plaintiffs want the period the combination can be used extended to nine weeks and for the woman to take the second drug at home. They told the court the limitation would affect 800 women who take the combination after the seventh week and before the tenth week of pregnancy.
But harkening back to Supreme Court precedents, Judge Bury held that HB 2036 did not place an “undue burden” on the right to abort or place a “substantial obstacle” in the exercise of that right.
In his 14-page ruling, Bury said that on its face the laws reflects the legitimate goals of the Arizona legislature to protect women from “dangerous and potentially deadly off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs” and require abortionists to adhere to the procedures tested and approved by the FDA.
“In other words, the primary, if not the sole, purpose of the statute is maternal health,” Judge Bury wrote. “The government has a legitimate interest in advancing the state of medical knowledge concerning maternal health and prenatal life.”
He concluded that the injunction sought by Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center “is not in the public interest.”