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Block on 2015 Arkansas abortion law stands

After ruling, 2 clinics allowed to use medication procedure by Linda Satter | August 24, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Abortion clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville have been given the go-ahead to continue providing medication-induced abortions while the state appeals a preliminary order blocking a ban on the procedure.

After U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued an injunction July 2 preventing the state from enforcing a law that restricts the procedure, the state appealed to the 8th Circuit and asked the appellate court to "stay" Baker's order in the meantime.

But the 8th Circuit denied the stay request on Wednesday, Planned Parenthood announced Thursday.

Planned Parenthood sued the state in late 2015, just before Act 577 of 2015 was to take effect, to stop it from being enforced unless and until its constitutionality can be determined.

The law requires providers of medication abortions, which are administered through the ninth week of pregnancy, to have a signed contract with doctors who have hospital privileges, in the event of an emergency. But Planned Parenthood and the only other clinic in the state that provides abortions, Little Rock Family Planning Services, say the law is impossible for them to comply with and in reality is designed to prevent medication-induced abortions, an increasingly popular alternative to surgical abortions.

Clinic directors say they have been unable to find any physicians who are willing to contract with abortion providers because of the stigma associated with abortion, which causes many hospitals to deny privileges to doctors who associate with abortion providers.

If the law is enforced, as it was briefly earlier this year after an earlier injunction by Baker was dissolved, Arkansas would be the first state in the nation to effectively ban medication abortion. That would leave women in Arkansas with only one in-state option for abortion services -- the Little Rock Family Planning Clinic, which is the only provider of surgical abortions.

"With Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court raising alarming questions about the future of Roe v. Wade," which legalized abortion, "the battle over abortion access in states like Arkansas has national implications," Planned Parenthood said Thursday. It was referring to President Donald Trump's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.

In a news release, Dr. Brandon J. Hill, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which oversees the Little Rock and Fayetteville clinics, said, "Though we know the case is far from over, we're thrilled that this decision will allow women to continue accessing safe, legal abortion in the immediate future. The district court's thoughtful ruling demonstrated that real harm comes from creating obstacles for women seeking abortion, and the 8th Circuit's ruling allows that decision to stand for now."

In deciding to grant the injunction, which is to remain in place until the law's constitutionality is determined, unless the 8th Circuit grants the state's appeal, Baker considered whether the contract-physician requirement's benefits are substantially outweighed by the burdens it imposes on a large fraction of women seeking medication abortion in Arkansas. She said the burdens outweigh the benefits of the law, which would restrict a procedure universally regarded as safe.

Metro on 08/24/2018

Print Headline: Block on '15 abortion law stands

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