The anti-choice lunacy continues: a ridiculously strict Arizona law limiting women's access to RU-486 — commonly known as "the abortion pill" — takes effect today. For literally no good reason, providers will now be forced to administer the drug using outdated protocols and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, despite the fact that medication abortion is typically administered for up to nine weeks.
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge David Bury of Tuscon denied a request by Planned Parenthood to block implementation of the law until its constitutionality has been resolved. Thus, while the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and the Tucson Women's Center challenging these restrictions is being litigated, women who wish to end a pregnancy after seven weeks will be forced to seek out surgical abortions. As Tara Culp-Ressler notes at ThinkProgress, this bodes especially poorly for women in the norther part of the state, "where the sole provider only offers the pill and doesn't perform surgical abortions." In addition, doctors will be forced to abide by FDA protocols from 2000 that call for the drug to be given in higher doses than is customary today.
In his ruling denying the request, Bury flat-out acknowledges that women in northern Arizona "will have to travel several hundred extra miles and may have to secure overnight lodging to obtain a surgical procedure because the clinic in Flagstaff only provides medication abortion." He also notes that "for all women throughout the state, medication abortions will cost more and require more time and effort to secure," that women will have to make two trips to the clinic, that some will be required to "twice take off work, get day care, etc." However, he doesn't think it's clear that any of these circumstances are "substantial obstacles to abortion," nor do they qualify as "irreparable harm." UH, OK. Women who lack the time and resources to make two several-hundred-mile trips will just have to figure it out, I suppose. No harm here! (Side note: as MSNBC's Irin Carmon pointed out on Twitter, he repeatedly misspells the name of one abortion pill in his decision, which is really reassuring.)
David Brown, an attorney for the center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, "This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier, and less effective method. This is what happens when politicians, not doctors, practice medicine."
In a statement, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said, "This is not over — we will continue to fight for Arizona women with everything we've got." Let's hope it works.
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