Arizona’s Medicinal Abortion Limits Challenged in Court

Planned Parenthood asked a federal appeals court to roll back Arizona limits on drug-induced abortions the women’s health advocacy group said are among the most stringent in the nation.

A federal judge in Tucson in March refused to block the statute, which bars medicinal abortions after the seventh week of pregnancy. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco then ordered the state not to enforce the law while an appeal is pending. That court was heard arguments over the law today.

Alice Clapman, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, which is representing Arizona abortion providers in a bid to overturn the law, said the statute illegally places an undue burden on women seeking abortions by requiring them to pay more, travel further for an abortion and potentially face greater risks.

“It would for no reason turn back the clock on womens’ health care,” she told a three-judge panel.

The Arizona statute, part of a 2012 overhaul of the state’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.

The Arizona law, while allowing surgical abortions, prohibits previously allowed medicinal abortions, including the use of the drug RU-486, in the eighth and ninth week of pregnancy.

Robert Ellman, an attorney representing the state’s public health department, said women are guaranteed the right to terminate their pregnancies, not the right to choose the method by which they can do so.

“I see some real burden” to women seeking drug-induced abortions, U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher said. “I don’t see in the record any medically-based justification for it.”

The statute doesn’t impose an undue burden “if another safe means for abortion is available,” Ellman said.

The circuit judges didn’t say when they will rule.

The case is Planned Parenthood of Arizona v. Humble, 14-15624, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).

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