Arizona exempt from ruling on abortion drug because of prior lawsuit, AG Mayes says

Apr 10, 2023, 11:37 AM | Updated: 11:44 am

FILE - Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloo...

FILE - Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., March 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

(AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

PHOENIX — Arizona is not subject to a federal judge’s ruling that could ban the use of an abortion-inducing drug because of a prior lawsuit, Attorney General Kris Mayes said Monday.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk put on hold federal approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs used in combination to end pregnancies. The judge immediately stayed his ruling for a week so federal authorities could file a challenge. The Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to put the decision on hold.

“I want to assure Arizonans that legal access to the drug remains available for providers and patients in this state,” Mayes said in a statement.

At about the same time Kacsmaryk issued his ruling in Amarillo, Texas, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice in Spokane, Washington, directed authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the mifepristone in at least 17 states, including Arizona, where Democrats sued in an effort to protect availability.

Mifepristone has been widely used in the U.S. since securing Food and Drug Administration approval in 2000, and there is essentially no precedent for a lone judge overruling the medical decisions of the FDA.

“I joined this challenge to protect Arizonans’ access to mifepristone, which has a long record of safe and effective use by millions of Americans over the last 23 years,” said Mayes, who made abortion rights a key campaign issue in last year’s tightly contested attorney general race.

The dueling decisions threw into question access to the nation’s most common method of abortion, one that scientists have approved for use for decades.

Mayes said her office, led by the recently established Reproductive Rights Unit, will file an amicus brief in the Texas case along with the other partner states.

“Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision flouts two decades of science and consensus in the medical community, and it will cause needless pain and suffering for patients. … The decision also runs contrary to established legal principles,” Mayes said.

The lawsuit in the Texas case was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was also involved in the Mississippi case that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned. At the core of the lawsuit is the allegation that the FDA’s initial approval of mifepristone was flawed because it did not adequately review its safety risks.

Courts have long deferred to the FDA on issues of drug safety and effectiveness. But the agency’s authority faces new challenges in a post-Roe legal environment in which abortions are banned or unavailable in 14 states, while 16 states have laws specifically targeting abortion medications.

In Arizona, abortion-inducing drugs can only be provided by a doctor and can’t be sent through the mail. Abortions of any kind can’t be performed after 15 weeks of gestation in the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona exempt from ruling on abortion drug because of prior lawsuit, AG Mayes says