Late Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an injunction blocking new Arizona regulations on medication abortion. Challengers of the regulations say they threaten to cut off access to medication abortion for thousands of Arizonans.
The injunction will remain in effect while the federal appeals court considers Planned Parenthood’s appeal of a lower court’s decision denying a preliminary order blocking implementation of the rules
, which require physicians to follow an outdated and less effective regimen for administering abortion-inducing medications. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights jointly filed the lawsuit challenging the rules. However, a federal district court in Tucson ruled that Arizona’s law restricting medication abortion and regulations implementing that law could take effect on April 1. After that ruling, attorneys representing Planned Parenthood filed an emergency appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and in response a panel of the court issued a temporary injunction while the court evaluated that request. Tuesday’s order will keep that injunction in place while the lawsuit on the merits proceeds.
“Planned Parenthood applauds the court’s decision to protect a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion in Arizona,” said Bryan Howard, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, in a statement following the decision. “We are all better off when physicians—and not politicians—decide what care is best for their patients. If implemented, these misguided restrictions would force doctors to provide care to their patients that goes against 13 years of research and practice in the medical field.”
Restrictions on medication abortion have occupied a lot of time in federal and state courts recently. Courts have enjoined similar laws on medication abortion in Oklahoma and North Dakota, while a federal appeals court allowed similar restrictions in Texas to remain in effect. Meanwhile, in the last three months, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review lower court decisions that struck down two other extreme Arizona laws—including a ban on abortion at 20 weeks that was related to HB 2036, a 2012 package of restrictions that also included the medication abortion restrictions now blocked by court order.
Oral arguments in this case will take place on May 13 in San Francisco.