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Supreme Court allows abortionists to violate FDA guidelines when using RU-486

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Abortionists are free to continue violating FDA guidelines to save money dispensing the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 after the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the state of Arizona this morning.

Justices let stand a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down a 2012 law requiring that abortionists obey federally established protocol when conducting chemical abortions, instead of the widely practiced regime that saves abortion providers hundreds of dollars per abortion.

The Clinton administration approved RU-486 for U.S. use in 2000 by a fast-track process that the watchdog group Judicial Watch said was “infected by raw politics.”

Health officials require doctors to administer 600 mg of mifepristone, which causes the newly implanted child to detach from the uterine wall. The woman then takes 400 mcg of misoprostol, which causes contractions that expel the baby from the womb.

The FDA allowed the procedure only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy.

But abortionists found a less expensive way to conduct medical abortions by lowering the dose of the expensive mifepristone and increasing the dosage of misoprostol, saving abortion providers approximately $200 per abortion. There is no indication that this savings reduced the cost they charged women.

They also continued dispensing the abortifacient until the ninth week of pregnancy.

The new arrangement proved profitable. By 2008, the National Abortion Federation found that only four percent of all abortion facilities were dispensing the abortifacient drug according to FDA protocol.

But it came at a deadly toll. By 2011, eight women died from sepsis after off-label use of the drugs.

In 2012, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law requiring that abortion facilities conduct medical abortions only if they follow the procedures established by the FDA, since abortion-inducing drugs are associated with increased risk of complications relative to surgical abortion. It also requires that the pill be administered in a doctor's office, not by nurses or other staff.

Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPAZ) said the law's regulations, and increased costs, would have forced it to close its office in Flagstaff.

“The concern that we have is that if these restrictions are allowed to take effect, they will potentially make it very hard to continue the provision of abortion – abortion health care – in Flagstaff,” PPAZ CEO Bryan Howard said. “Our facility is the only place that women in northern Arizona can access abortion care north of Phoenix.”

The organization sued. U.S. District Court Judge David Bury in Tuscon upheld the law in April, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, suspended the law just days later.

This summer, the appeals court – which is based in San Francisco and known as one of the nation's most liberal courts – overturned the law, saying it imposed an undue burden on the “right” to abortion-on-demand.

Today, the Supreme Court declined to review Humble v. Planned Parenthood Arizona Inc., a decision met with approval by the abortion industry.

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"By allowing to stand the Ninth Circuit’s strong decision blocking this underhanded law, the U.S. Supreme Court has ensured Arizona women will continue to have the same critical and constitutionally protected health care tomorrow that they have today," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said.

But Arizona State Attorney General Tom Horne said the decision was judicially ludicrous. “You shouldn't be able to say that we're being constitutionally unreasonable for following an FDA protocol,” he said.

Despite today's non-decision, the issue of medical abortion regulation is not going away. Ohio, Texas, and North Dakota have all seen similar laws upheld in court. The Ninth Circuit decision does not affect their laws.

But Oklahoma has seen its state law judicially overturned.

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