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Updated Apr 8, 2014 - 4:42 pm

Federal appeals court extends stay on new Arizona abortion rules

PHOENIX — A federal appeals court panel on Tuesday issued an injunction
blocking new Arizona abortion restrictions that are considered the most
stringent in the nation, saying women likely would suffer irreparable harm if
the rules are allowed to take effect.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay blocking the Arizona rules
last week while it considered an appeal from Planned Parenthood of Arizona and
abortion rights groups. The court extended the stay into a full injunction on
Tuesday.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne had asked the appeals court to lift the
stay, saying Planned Parenthood did not have enough evidence to show the
restrictions were detrimental. But the panel decided to block the rules at least
through May 12, when it will hear arguments in the case.

Horne argued that Planned Parenthood Arizona hasn’t proven that the Arizona
regulations, which are based on a 2012 law, could cause irreparable harm. The
organization is also unable to prove the regulations would place an undue burden
on women’s right to abortion, Horne said.

A lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights who is handling the case for
Planned Parenthood and a Tucson abortion clinic said the court’s three-page
ruling bodes well for them.

“I think the fact they’ve said we have demonstrated a strong showing on the
merits is a very good sign for us,” David Brown said. “We’ve put on a very
strong case that we’re likely to win it _ so we’re very pleased.”

The Center for Arizona Policy, an anti-abortion group that helped craft the
law, said it believes the rules ultimately will be upheld.

“It’s another temporary order. This one is far from over,” CAP President
Cathi Herrod said, noting that medical abortion restrictions in Ohio and Texas
have been allowed to stand by federal courts and the Supreme Court allowed the
Texas law to stand. “We remain confident that eventually the Arizona law will
be enforceable just like the Texas and Ohio laws.”

The abortion rules were released in January by the Arizona Department of Health
Services. They ban women from taking the most common abortion-inducing drug _
RU-486 _ after the seventh week of pregnancy. Women had been allowed to take the
abortion pill through nine weeks of pregnancy.

The rules also require that the drug be administered only at the Food and Drug
Administration-approved dosage and that both doses be taken at a clinic. The
dosage on the label, which was approved over a decade ago, is no longer
routinely followed because doctors have found much lower dosages are just as
effective when combined with a second drug, and women now usually take the
second dose at home, avoiding what is often a long trip to a clinic.

Planned Parenthood Arizona estimates that 800 women would have had to get
surgical abortions in 2012 if the rules had been in effect then. Proponents of
the law say it protects women’s health.

Separately, the Center for Reproductive Rights said Tuesday it has filed a
lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court alleging that the new regulations
violate the state constitution. They say the Legislature doesn’t have the
authorization to allow the Food and Drug Administration and the drugs companies
to set state standards in Arizona. They also say the state Health Services
Department violated its own public comment rules when it published the rules in
January.

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