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The Arkansas attorney general's office has asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to suspend her July 2 order allowing medication-induced abortions in Arkansas to continue, while the order is on appeal.

But Planned Parenthood, whose lawsuit led to the preliminary injunction, argued Monday that the order should remain in place because it "maintains the status quo as it has been for the past 10 years."

Baker issued a 148-page order on July 2 that prevents the state from enforcing a contracted-physician requirement in a 2015 state law until the law's constitutionality is decided.

It was the second time she had issued a preliminary injunction in response to a lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed in late 2015 to challenge the requirement, which the abortion provider says is impossible to meet and effectively stops all such abortions statewide.

Planned Parenthood provides only pill-induced abortions at its two clinics -- one each in Little Rock and Fayetteville -- and Little Rock Family Planning Services provides both pill-induced and surgical abortions.

After Baker's first injunction was issued in 2016, the state appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which dissolved the injunction and ordered Baker to conduct a more thorough hearing to determine precisely how the requirement would affect Arkansas women seeking medication-induced abortions. The 8th Circuit specifically directed Baker to determine whether a "large fraction" of such women would be unduly burdened by the law.

Baker's second injunction detailed how she determined that the law would unduly burden a "large fraction" of abortion-seeking women, and was to remain in place at least until a trial tentatively scheduled for early next year.

The contracted-physician requirement of Act 577 of 2015 creates criminal and civil penalties for any doctor who performs a medication-induced abortion in Arkansas without first obtaining a signed contract with a second obstetrician with hospital admitting privileges who agrees to handle any complications that arise after the patient leaves the clinic.

Medication-induced abortions are a two-step process, with one pill being administered by a doctor and the second taken by the woman 48 hours later at home.

The state contends the contracted-physician requirement is a means of protecting women in the event of complications and ensuring continuity of care. Planned Parenthood contends complications are rare and don't require hospitalization.

In issuing her second injunction, Baker "carefully considered the extensive evidence before it, consisting of both written declarations and live witness testimony, and made the findings mandated by the Eighth Circuit's prior decision in this case," attorneys for Planned Parenthood argued Monday. They said the state's arguments for a stay "merely rehash issues already considered and disposed of by this Court, consistent with Eighth Circuit and Supreme Court precedent."

The state has asked Baker to decide whether to issue a stay by 5 p.m. Thursday. On July 10, she ordered Planned Parenthood to respond by day's end Monday, and said a decision will follow.

Metro on 07/17/2018

Print Headline: Stay sought on abortion-law order

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