New restrictions on abortion will not take effect as scheduled on July 20.
Attorneys for the state agreed Wednesday not to begin enforcing the law until Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Richard Gama can consider arguments by Planned Parenthood contending that two new statutes are unconstitutional. That hearing is set for Aug. 22.
At that point Gama will need to decide whether to issue an injunction, placing the laws on hold while the case goes forward, or permit them to take effect.
Cynde Cerf, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said the agreement, while just temporary, is significant.
“It just means that women in rural communities are still going to get care,’’ she said.
Peter Gentala, attorney for the state House of Representatives, said the move made sense.
“The state agreed to a short stay to make sure there would be a full opportunity to defend the law and prevent an injunction,’’ he said. Gentala said Aug. 22 was the earliest date to get a hearing.
The central point in the lawsuit is the decision by lawmakers earlier this year to expand what constitutes a medical abortion.
Under existing law, any procedure that requires manual removal of a fetus can be performed only by a doctor. But until now, the law has permitted specially trained certified nurse practitioners to administer RU-486, a drug that induces abortion several days later.
Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, said there is no reason for such a distinction. She said women are entitled to the same level of medical care no matter which method they choose to terminate a pregnancy.
The new laws extend all the requirements for a surgical abortion to a medical abortion. While that includes the mandates for equipment and personnel that must be present, the biggest change is that nurse practitioners will no longer be able to perform the procedure.
Planned Parenthood, in its lawsuit, says that would mean no more abortions performed in Flagstaff, Prescott and Yuma which are staffed only by nurse practitioners. They also said it will mean unnecessary delays in the procedure for patients in the Tucson and Phoenix areas, as women who otherwise could get a medical abortion from a nurse practitioner now will have to wait until a doctor is available.
Bryan Howard, president of the organization, said these bills and others in prior years are all designed to make it impossible for women to exercise their constitutional right to decide whether to carry a baby to full term.
He cited another bill approved this year that bars the University of Arizona College of Medicine from using any state or student funds to train doctors how to perform an abortion.
Barto said she was disappointed about any delay in enforcing the law. But she said she remains confident that attorneys for the state “will make the case that women deserve this standard of care.’’