PHOENIX - A federal court of appeals panel could decide as soon as Monday whether to keep in place a temporary block of new Arizona abortion regulations while a lawsuit over the new rules plays out in court.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals blocked the rules on Wednesday, saying the court needs more time to consider a full briefing on the request for the emergency stay. A federal district court judge in Tucson had denied the request last Monday, one day before the regulations went into effect. The rules, which heavily restrict the use of the most common abortion medications, are considered the most stringent in the country, although Texas and Ohio have adopted similar regulations.
Both Arizona and Planned Parenthood Arizona, whose attorneys requested the injunction, have filed additional arguments against and in favor of keeping the stay in place.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne argued that Planned Parenthood Arizona has not proven the Arizona regulations, which are based on a 2012 law, could cause irreparable harm. He argued the women's health organization is also unable to prove the regulations would place an undue burden on women's right to abortion.
The abortion rules were released in January by the Arizona Department of Health Services. They ban women from taking the most common abortion-inducing drug -- RU-486 -- after the seventh week of pregnancy. Women had been allowed to take the abortion pill through nine weeks of pregnancy.
The rules also require that the drug be administered only at the Food and Drug Administration-approved dosage and that both doses be taken at a clinic. The dosage on the label, which was approved over a decade ago, is no longer routinely followed because doctors have found much lower dosages are just as effective when combined with a second drug.
Planned Parenthood Arizona estimates that 800 women would have had to get surgical abortions in 2012 if the rules were in effect then.
Proponents of the law say it protects women's health.