PHOENIX — Arizona moved Monday to implement new abortion rules limiting
the use of the most common abortion-inducing drug and requiring doctors to have
admitting privileges at a nearby hospitals.
The rules require that the most common abortion-inducing drug be administered
only at the FDA-approved dosage no later than seven weeks into a pregnancy, and
that both doses be taken at the clinic. The usual dose is lower, decreasing the
chance of complications and the cost, and used up to nine weeks. The second dose
is usually taken a day later at the woman’s home.
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
The proposed rules published Monday by the Health Services Department were
required under a 2012 law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and
signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. A portion of the law banning abortions after 20 weeks
was struck down last year, but the other provisions remain in effect.
The new regulations will go into effect April 1.
The limits on using the drug mifepristone, commonly called RU-486, are the most
problematic of the new rules, said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager at the
New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research
“This would mean that it would be incredibly difficult to provide medication
abortion in Arizona,” Nash said. “They’re both effective, and they’re both
safe. 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.”
Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion group Center for Arizona Policy,
hailed the new rules.
“The new regulations are important to protect women’s health and safety when
they enter an abortion clinic,” Herrod said. She said following the Food and
Drug Administration-approved protocol is the safest use of RU-486, even though
many other drugs are used “off-label.”
“In the abortion context, the (FDA) approved a very specific protocol for how
women should be given the abortion pill,” Herrod said. “The intent of the
Arizona regulations is that this protocol would be followed in order to provide
for women’s health and safety when they’re having an abortion.”
Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, said the regulations
require “physicians to use an inferior, out-of-date method of care for
medication abortion instead of the guidelines supported by the most trusted
professional and scientific organizations.”
“In addition to forcing doctors in Arizona to administer medication abortion
in a way that goes against the research-driven guidelines by experts in women’s
health, these regulations would deprive many women of the option of medication
abortion by banning it after seven weeks of pregnancy,” Howard said in a
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.
Ohio and Texas have similar laws requiring the use of only FDA-approved
protocols for drug-abortions.
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. A
similar effort failed last year. House Bill 2284 also would make it a
misdemeanor to assist a minor in obtaining an abortion if the effort is made to
avoid the state’s parental consent law.
The state licenses four abortion clinics and five outpatient treatment clinics
authorized to perform abortions.