New York, NY — The United States Supreme Court today declined to review an Arizona law that would severely limit women’s access to medication abortion, an extremely safe method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages. The measure will remain preliminarily blocked by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit while the case proceeds in federal district court.
“The Court did the right thing today, but this dangerous and misguided law should never have passed in the first place. Politicians across the country should take note — these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions won’t be tolerated by the courts or the public,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Politicians are not medical experts — but politicians have written this law with the ultimate goal of making safe, legal abortion hard or even impossible to access. We are pleased that the courts are recognizing that these unconstitutional laws hurt women and block access to safe medical care.”
“By allowing to stand the Ninth Circuit’s strong decision blocking this underhanded law, the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured Arizona women will continue to have the same critical and constitutionally protected health care tomorrow that they have today,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy will continue to get safe, legal care based on the expertise of their doctors, not politicians who presume to know better.”
Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with approximately one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy choosing this method if it’s an option—in Arizona, the number is closer to half. Data, including from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), shows that abortion has over a 99 percent safety record, with women experiencing complications less than 1 percent of the time. Further, medical studies have shown that medication abortion is just as safe as surgical abortion.
Arizona’s regulation — which was issued by the Department of Health Services in January 2014 under the authority of a law signed by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2012 — either bans medication abortion entirely or the practical impact would make the method unavailable because it mandates an outdated and inferior protocol that has been called “bad medicine,” by experts like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
The law would deprive many women of access to abortion altogether, particularly in northern Arizona where Planned Parenthood Arizona is the sole provider of safe and legal abortion and would not be able to continue to offer that service under the burdensome requirements of this law. Women in this part of the state would be left having to travel an average of 321 miles roundtrip — twice — to get an abortion in Arizona.
Medicine is a constantly evolving field in which new technologies and new research lead to better treatments. The way a drug is administered often evolves after the FDA has approved it for use. This is called evidence-based medicine — when after years of use the medical community often prescribes medicines for different uses and/or in different doses based on new research and their experience. This is how aspirin came to be used to prevent heart attacks. ACOG and the American Medical Association submitted a joint amicus curiae brief in April 2014 in support of the legal challenge, explaining that the Arizona law “jeopardizes women’s health by requiring that physicians deny women the benefit of the most current, well-researched, safe, evidence-based, and proven protocols for the provision of medical abortion and, instead, prescribe a regimen that is outdated and less safe.”
The case was brought by Planned Parenthood Arizona and Tucson Women’s Center, represented by attorneys from Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Arizona attorney Lawrence Rosenfeld of Squire Sanders LLP.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
December 15, 2014