SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The nation's strictest rules on the use of abortion drugs are likely to be struck down and will continue to be blocked while a lawsuit against them plays out, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Arizona regulations appear to be an unconstitutional "undue burden on a woman's right to abortion" and kept in place its injunction on them. The decision reverses a lower court ruling that found the rules legal.
Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Tucson Women's Center are challenging the regulations, which would ban women from taking the most common abortion-inducing drug — RU-486 — after the seventh week of pregnancy. Women had been allowed to take the abortion pill through nine weeks of pregnancy.
The rules also require that the drug be administered only at the FDA-approved dosage and that both doses be taken at a clinic. The usual dosage is lower, and it's normally taken at home, decreasing the cost and chance of complications.
The 9th Circuit rejected Arizona's arguments that the new restrictions were passed to protect women's health and designed to comply with FDA-approved use.
Judge William Fletcher, writing for the 9th Circuit panel, said the FDA "encourages" so-called off-label use of RU-486, formally mifepristone, which is most often administered in lower doses than the approved label directs.
"Arizona has presented no evidence whatsoever that the law furthers any interest in women's health," Fletcher wrote.
Andrew Wilder, spokeswoman for Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, said the state intends to keep fighting to get the law implemented. Brewer is a staunch opponent of abortion.
"The state will continue to litigate the case in District Court," Wilder said.
Planned Parenthood Arizona says the rules would force hundreds of women to undergo a surgical abortion while also placing a financial burden on women who live far from an abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood says the higher dose also exposes women to unnecessary side effects.
But Arizona's attorneys say the rules are meant to protect women's health by mandating that drugs be used according to FDA-approved protocol. They say women will still have access to alternative types of abortions in Arizona.
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