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Suit challenges Ariz. rules said to restrict abortion by medication

Women will see rights violated, plaintiffs say

PHOENIX — Abortion providers announced Wednesday that they have sued the state of Arizona to try to block new state rules limiting the use of the most common drugs used to induce abortion.

The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Tucson by Planned Parenthood Arizona and the Tucson Women’s Center, alleges that the new rules, required under a 2012 law, will block many women from using medication for abortions. Lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America are representing them.

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The rules, released in January by the Arizona Department of Health Services, take effect April 1. They require the most common abortion-inducing drug to be administered only at the FDA-approved dosage no later than seven weeks into a pregnancy, rather than nine weeks, and that both doses be taken at the clinic.

The usual dose is lower and is usually taken at home, decreasing the cost and chance of complications.

The rules also require that physicians who perform surgical abortions have privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic and that doctors administering abortion-inducing drugs have admission rights. It also required abortion clinics to report complications that require ambulance transport of a patient. Those rules aren’t being challenged.

A health services spokeswoman had no comment.

The president of the Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-abortion group that pushed the 2012 law, issued a statement slamming the lawsuit. The group has pushed a series of abortion restrictions in recent years that have become law. But two, a ban on Medicaid money for any Planned Parenthood non-abortion services, and barring abortions after 20 weeks, have been blocked by federal courts.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction blocking the new rules from taking effect.

When the rules were issued in January, abortion rights groups said the limits on using the drug mifepristone, or RU-486, were problematic. The 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 if combined with a second drug.

Ohio and Texas have similar laws requiring the use of only FDA-approved protocols for drug abortions that have been upheld by federal courts. But state courts in Oklahoma and North Dakota have blocked similar rules.

The Arizona Legislature has seen proposals to restrict abortion advance nearly every session in recent years.

The only bill introduced so far this year would allow surprise inspections of abortion clinics by the Health Department. It would makes it a misdemeanor to help a minor obtain an abortion if the effort is made to avoid the state’s parental consent law.

Planned Parenthood 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.

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