PHOENIX — Arizona will not be able to enforce its new law limiting medication abortions for at least another six weeks.
In a brief order today, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to issue an injunction blocking the law from taking effect until the judges consider the issue. And that will not happen until May 12.
Today's move is a setback for abortion foes who had pushed a measure through the Legislature in 2012 which spells out that the abortion drug RU-486 can be used only as specifically authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That federal regulation allows medication abortions only through the seventh week of pregnancy; the current practice by the Tucson Women's Clinic and Planned Parenthood is to use that drug and one other through the ninth week.
The law had been set to take effect on April 1. But it has essentially been stayed while the 9th Circuit considered an emergency appeal of a lower court ruling refusing to block enforcement.
In an unsigned order, the three-judge panel said the Arizona law "raises serious legal questions" about whether it creates an "undue burden" on women who want to terminate a pregnancy.
Potentially more significant, the judges said allowing the law to take effect while its legality is litigated will create "irreparable harm" to some women "because they will immediately lose access to a common abortion procedure as soon as the law takes effect."