When the rules were announced in January, pro-abortion groups said the limits on using the drug mifepristone, commonly called RU-486, were the most problematic. The Arizona rules limit it to use under the Food and Drug Administration drug label approved in 2000, which uses a much higher dosage. That dosage is no longer routinely followed because doctors have found much lower dosages are just as effective when combined with a second drug.
"They're both effective, and they're both safe," Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization, said then. "But the off-label protocol is simply a better protocol when you consider the costs and the side effects. And the limit with the FDA protocol, that one can only be used up to seven weeks, and the off-label can be used up to nine weeks of pregnancy."
The most recent state report, covering 2012, showed that 13,340 abortions were performed in Arizona, with 32 percent involving a non-surgical procedure using medicine. More than 95 percent used RU-486 in combination with another drug.
Planned Parenthood's Howard said it provided abortion care to about 5,000 women last year who were in the ninth week of pregnancy or less. About half those were medication abortions.
"Arizona is simply trying to rob women of their constitutionally protected rights," said David Brown, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights.
A health services spokeswoman had no immediate comment Wednesday. But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Kimberly Yee, also attacked Planned Parenthood.
"I think it's irresponsible for Planned Parenthood to try to get around an FDA-approved protocol regarding the dosage for which this abortion medication would be administered to women, because we're talking about the health and safety of women and the importance that the FDA felt with respect to a limit of seven weeks," Yee said. "As proponents of this bill, we stand and we approve of the Department of Health's regulations on this particular issue."
Associated Press writer Astrid Galvan contributed to this report.
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