Arizona’s law limiting drug-induced abortions was blocked by a federal appeals court, handing a victory to Planned Parenthood as it seeks to roll back a restriction it calls among the most stringent in the nation.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco today ruled unanimously that the law places an undue burden on women’s access to abortions. The statute, while allowing surgical abortions, prohibits medicinal abortions including the use of the drug RU-486 after the seventh week of pregnancy.
Arizona introduced no evidence that it advanced the state’s interest in women’s health, the court said. It ordered a lower court to issue a temporary injunction pending a final decision in the case, which it said Planned Parenthood is likely to win. The law was already stayed while the court considered the appeal.
The law would effectively bar medication abortions outright, because many women don’t discover they are pregnant in time to use the drugs as the law allows, the court said.
The statute, part of a 2012 overhaul of the Arizona’s abortion regulations, is one of more than 200 abortion restrictions passed nationwide since a Republican-led push in state legislatures began in 2011. More state abortion restrictions were passed during that time than in the previous decade, according to a Jan. 2 report by the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights advocacy organization.
A federal judge in Tucson in March refused to block the statute. The appeals court then ordered the state not to enforce the law while it considered the appeal. The three-judge panel today sent the case back to the lower court with instructions to issue the preliminary injunction.
“Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their claim that the Arizona law imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion,” the judges said.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, a Republican, didn’t immediately reply to a message seeking comment on the ruling.
“Arizona women can access safe, legal abortion following the best, safest medical guidelines while our case challenging this dangerous and misguided law continues,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
The case is Planned Parenthood of Arizona v. Humble, 14-15624, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).