Planned Parenthood Arizona v. Humble

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 06-03-2014
  • Case #: 14-15624
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judges Graber and Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

When determining whether a woman’s constitutional right to abortion has been hindered, the undue burden test will apply, whereby it must be shown that a substantial obstacle prevents or defers a woman from accessing preferred methods of abortion.

Planned Parenthood Arizona and other plaintiffs (“plaintiffs”) sought to enjoin William Humble, Director of Arizona’s Department of Health Services from enforcing Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 36-449.03(E)(6) and the regulation implementing this statute, Ariz. Admin. Code § R9-10-1508(G), collectively “Arizona law.” The plaintiffs argued that Arizona law violates equal protection rights by inflicting an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to abortion by restricting the use of the prescription drug mifepristone. Specifically, Arizona law only permits medication abortions during the first seven weeks of pregnancy and only according to the on-label protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the medical community considers the alternative evidence-based regimen the best practice due to higher safety and cost-effectiveness. The district court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, holding that the plaintiffs’ claim is unlikely to succeed on merits. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court relied on the undue burden test as laid in Planned Parenthood of Se. Penn. v. Casey and Gonzales v. Carhart. Undue burden is defined as a “substantial obstacle” in regards to a woman’s access to abortion. The panel held that the district court abused its discretion in denying the plaintiffs’ motion because Arizona law unconstitutionally defers and prevents a woman from choosing the evidence-based regimen as an alternative abortion method. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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