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Arizona law firm files lawsuit to stop medical abortions in US

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An Arizona-based law firm founded to uphold what it sees as Christian values ​​is trying to block the most widely used method of abortion.

Lawyers for the Defending Freedom Alliance argue that the “abortion pill” – technically, two separate drugs used together – is medically dangerous. on science.’

There was no immediate response from the FDA to the lawsuit. But the agency, in its publications, said it determined that mifepristone, the main drug involved, “is safe and effective when used to terminate a pregnancy” according to labeling instructions.

If the lawsuit is successful, it will take away an important option for women here, said Brittany Fonteno, president of Planned Parenthood Arizona.

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That’s not all. The state Court of Appeals is debating whether to allow Arizona to reenact its territorial-era law that bans virtually all abortions.

If that happens, the only termination option for women in Arizona would be to find a way to have a doctor in another state prescribe the drugs so they can manage their own abortions.

That would cease to be an option if the Alliance Defending Freedom’s lawsuit is successful, the FDA is forced to rescind its approval, and the drugs are no longer available nationwide.

The lawsuit, filed in Texas, is on behalf of several anti-abortion medical groups, including the Hippocratic Medicine Alliance, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Christian Medical and Dental Association.

The arguments of the lawsuit

Erik Baptist, the lead attorney, said President Bill Clinton, on his second full day in office in 1992, ordered his office to legalize chemical abortion drugs in the United States. He said Clinton then pressured a French company to donate the U.S. patent rights for mifepristone for free to the Population Council, an organization that does biomedical research and has developed birth control methods.

The board then gained FDA approval for use on Sept. 28, 2000, just over a month before the hotly contested presidential election, Baptist said.

“The only The way the FDA could have approved chemical abortion drugs was to use its expedited drug approval authority, forcing the FDA to label pregnancy a “disease” and argue that these dangerous drugs offer “significant therapeutic benefit.” over existing treatments,” Baptist wrote.

“But pregnancy is not a disease, nor do chemical abortion drugs offer a therapeutic advantage over surgical abortion,” he said, calling the FDA’s claims “transparent. false”. to disavow science and the law” because he never studied the safety of drugs under conditions of use labeled as required.

In 2016, the FDA extended the permitted use of the drugs from the first seven weeks of pregnancy to 10 weeks, reducing the number of required office visits from three to one, and expanded who could prescribe the drugs beyond doctors, a he declared.

And last year, he said, under President Joe Biden, the FDA said it would stop enforcing its requirement that abortion providers provide in-person distribution of mifepristone and allow the Temporarily places mail-order chemical abortions during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This was later made permanent.

“This decision not only harms women and girls who voluntarily undergo chemical abortions, but it also helps sex traffickers and sex abusers coerce their victims into having abortions while preventing authorities from identifying those victims,” said declared Baptist.

Several states, including Arizona, have since passed laws prohibiting obtaining these drugs through the mail, regardless of FDA policy.

But Cathi Herrod, president of the Arizona Anti-Abortion Center for Politics, which helped shape the state’s legislation, admitted to Capitol Media Services that it was blocking the shipment of drugs to Arizona. from a pharmacy in another state or country, where abortion is still legal, could be logistically difficult.

“Abortion pills are being mailed into this country from places like India, as I understand it,” Herrod said when the issue arose earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade.

This 1973 ruling declared that women have the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before a fetus becomes viable, generally considered between 22 and 24 weeks. The court overturned it this year, leaving it to each state to decide its policies and laws on pregnancy termination.

The National Women’s Health Network has told women they can create a “virtual mailbox” before making an appointment for a telemedicine consultation online, then ask the companies that provide these mailbox services. to send the articles.

More than half of Arizona abortions

This trial is about more than mifepristone, also known as RU-486, which is designed to terminate pregnancy.

Medical studies have said that the drug does not always work on its own.

So the FDA added a second drug to the regimen – misoprostal – to induce contractions to push the fetus out of the womb. Baptist wants the judge to order the FDA to withdraw its approval for this drug as well.

Withdrawing the drugs would affect more than half of abortions performed in Arizona.

In 2020 — the most recent year for which the state health department has data — there were 6,620 pregnancies terminated using nonsurgical procedures, virtually all on the two-drug regimen. In contrast, there were 6,550 surgical abortions.

“I think it would be terribly devastating if access to abortion was further eliminated by the unavailability of the abortion pill,” Fonteno said.

“We know that at Planned Parenthood Arizona, and indeed across the country, most patients prefer the abortion pill as a method of pregnancy termination,” she said. “This is just another attempt to try to block access to essential healthcare.”

Fonteno said surgeries are less likely to have complications. This is supported by research indicating that surgical abortions have less risk of an incomplete procedure.

“But both the pill abortion and surgical abortion are incredibly safe procedures performed in an outpatient setting,” she said.

According to a 2018 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, less than 1% of people who sought medical abortions had complications.

The legal cases of the alliance

Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom calls itself “the world’s largest legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s purpose. for marriage and family.

Founded in 1994, it has been involved in a number of cases in Arizona, including asking the state Supreme Court to rule that a Phoenix anti-discrimination order did not prevent two women from refusing to provide personalized gay couple wedding invitations.

The organization also got the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in 2015 that it was illegal for Gilbert to have an ordinance with stricter requirements for churches displaying temporary signs directing the public to services than for churches. political or ideological panels.

Their attorneys also represent Dr. Eric Hazelrigg, who is representing the interests of the unborn children in the case before the Arizona Court of Appeals.

He took the position that Arizona can enforce its 1864 law that makes it a crime to perform an abortion except to save the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood, on the other hand, wants the court to rule that a law passed this year by Arizona lawmakers enacting a 15-week ban should apply to medical professionals.

The appeals court is due to hear arguments in the case later this month.

The Democrats celebrate their victory in the US Senate with a very narrow majority. Now the country is waiting to hear the fate of the House of Representatives, which is leaning toward Republican control.



Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has reported since 1970 and has covered state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at @azcapmedia or email azcapmedia@gmail.com.

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