Three Arkansas clinics on Monday filed a notice in Pulaski County Circuit Court that they are appealing a finding that they improperly collected money for abortion-related services during a mandated 48-hour waiting period before the procedure.
In an 11-2 vote on Oct. 25, the state Board of Health found that Little Rock Family Planning Services and Planned Parenthood clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville had violated a 2015 state law.
The board didn't impose a fine or other penalty, but kept in place a restriction that the clinics say has caused them to lose thousands of dollars.
The clinics' attorney, Bettina Brownstein of Little Rock, has said the law violates the federal and state constitutions by requiring the clinics to provide certain services to women at least 48 hours before an abortion while prohibiting them from charging for those services at the time.
Many women never return to the clinic after their initial visits and, as a result, don't end up paying their bills, she said.
"Once again Arkansas politicians have devised an underhanded scheme to drive clinics out of business and push care out of reach," said Rita Sklar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said in a news release announcing the appeal.
"This law is a plainly unconstitutional attempt to restrict women's access to reproductive health services and punish the doctors who provide them."
The state Department of Health doesn't comment on pending litigation, spokesman Meg Mirivel said.
Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs, who sponsored the 2015 law, said in an Oct. 23 letter to the health board that the restriction on collecting money is meant to "ensure no woman feels obligated to have an abortion even if she determines abortion may not be the best choice for her."
Brownstein, a cooperating attorney with the ACLU of Arkansas, noted in the two-paragraph notice of appeal that the clinics have also requested that the Board of Health revise its written order, issued on Nov. 8.
In a Nov. 14 filing with the board, Brownstein said the order doesn't list findings of fact and conclusions of law as required under the state Administrative Procedure Act and didn't address several of the clinics' arguments.
She said the clinics will argue in their appeal that the 2015 law violates the state and U.S. constitutions and interferes with contracts in violation of Arkansas common law.
The clinics will also argue that the Health Department exceeded its authority in enforcing the law and was "arbitrary and capricious" in its enforcement, Brownstein said in the board filing.
Metro on 11/27/2018
Print Headline: 3 Arkansas clinics appeal abortion-fee ruling, challenge law