ABORTION IN OHIO New law restricting access faces suit

The law doesn't take effect until late September.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Providers of abortion services in Ohio are trying to block a new state law that would restrict access to a pill used to induce abortions.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court asks a judge to rule the new law unconstitutional and to block its enforcement. The law, which would take effect Sept. 23, makes it a crime to provide mifepristone -- the RU-486 pill -- except in accordance with all provisions of federal law governing use of the pill.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of mifepristone in 2000.
Nicole G. Berner, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said the FDA restricts the use of RU-486 to physicians who can meet certain requirements.
The FDA says the drug can be distributed only to doctors who can accurately determine the duration of a patient's pregnancy. Doctors who prescribe RU-486 must be able to perform surgery in cases of an incomplete abortion or severe bleeding, or they must have made advance plans to provide this care through other qualified physicians, the FDA says.
All of the Ohio doctors covered by the lawsuit meet those requirements, Berner said Thursday.
Three Planned Parenthood organizations across the state and Preterm, operator of a Cleveland health care clinic, contend in their lawsuit filed Monday that the Ohio law contains no exception for allowing an abortion in cases where the woman's health or life is at risk. The law infringes on a woman's right to choose abortion, would expose doctors to criminal prosecution for performing legal services and is unconstitutionally vague about what it means when referring to federal law, the lawsuit said.
The state will defend the law on grounds that it allows doctors to prescribe RU-486 as federal law allows, said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, on Thursday.
Women increasingly have chosen to use RU-486 rather than undergo surgical abortions because taking the pill is more private and allows them more control over the procedure, the providers said.
Abortion opponents in Congress have tried to block sales of RU-486 in this country, contending that the FDA overstepped its authority by approving the drug's use. The FDA has defended the approval process.
RU-486 can be used for up to seven weeks after the beginning of a woman's last menstrual period.

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