On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge David Bury ruled that Arizona's ban on medical abortions after the seventh week of pregnancy can continue while Planned Parenthood mounts a legal challenge against it. But as MSNBC's Irin Carmon first pointed out on Twitter, Bury didn't quite nail the spelling of one of the key drugs used in a medical abortion — misoprostol.
Misoprostol is used in conjunction with mifepristone to complete a medical abortion. (In the simplest terms possible, mifepristone, or RU-486, breaks down the uterus lining, and misoprostol aids in expelling the fetus from the uterus.) So while Arizona lawmakers decided in 2012 to ban the use of mifepristone in the eighth and ninth weeks of pregnancy, misoprostol remains a key part of the procedure. Those Arizona lawmakers, however, spelled it like "misopristol" in the original bill, HB 2036. In his Monday ruling, Bury copied that mistake and added in his own misspelling, too — "misoprostal".
Eh, we know what they meant, right? But since "misoprostal" and "misopristol" aren't actually real drugs, we wondered if these misspellings might render the law unenforceable. Columbia's abortion law expert Carol Sanger told The Wire that probably that's unlikely. "To be 'vague' so that a law is unenforceable, it has to be really unclear so people can't know if they are breaking the law or not," she says. "This looks more like a regrettable typo ... I don't think it will work."
If this ban really is about "protecting the health and safety of women," however, the Arizona legislature and Bury may want to figure out exactly what that miso-whatsit drug is. It does sound dangerous.