PHOENIX — State health officials are implementing new rules that will limit the use of an abortion drug in Arizona and could curb the ability of some doctors to perform abortions.
Formally published Monday — the precursor to enforcement, these rules are what's left of a 2012 law that also sought to ban abortions at 20 weeks. While that part was struck down by federal courts, the rest remain on the books and now can be put into effect.
Monday's move comes as abortion foes are proposing yet another regulation, this one allowing the state Department of Health Services to make unannounced inspections of abortion clinics and add criminal penalties to existing laws for helping minors to get an abortion without parental consent.
Cathi Herrod of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy said such unannounced inspections are necessary to protect the health of women seeking to terminate pregnancies.
But Jodi Liggett, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Arizona, said her organization fears what's in HB 2284 will not only mean unnecessary interference in abortion clinic operations but could endanger the privacy of women who don't want their identities revealed.
But it could be the rules, which will take effect April 1, that would have the most immediate implications.
- Requirements for ultrasound equipment in all abortion clinics;
- Having a nurse on site for monitoring and care after abortion if a doctor is not available;
- Various new standards for recovery rooms and patient follow-up;
- A mandate to report anything that requires a patient be transported by ambulance.
The most far-reaching, though, could be the rules on the use of mifepristone, the abortion-inducing drug better known as RU-486.
As approved, the law says that any medication used to induce an abortion must be administered "in compliance with the protocol authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and that is outlined in the final printing labeling instructions for that medication, drug or substance.''
In the case of RU-486, that means only through the seventh week of pregnancy. But Planned Parenthood advertises that it uses it into the ninth week.
Taking that out of the arsenal means a woman at that stage of pregnancy would have to undergo a more complicated and expensive surgical procedure. But Herrod said the restriction is justified.
"The Food and Drug Administration underwent a lengthy evaluation process before they approved the drug for use as an abortion medication,'' she said. "Women deserve to have the highest standard of safety used when they're taking abortion medication.''
Herrod conceded there is nothing illegal — at least in federal law — about doctors using a drug for a purpose or at a dosage that is different than what a manufacturer recommends. In fact, even Arizona law does not preclude such "off-label'' use for any other drug.
But she insisted that, at least in this case with this drug, Arizona doctors should be forced to follow FDA protocols.