Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which includes Arkansas’s two Planned Parenthood clinics (one in Little Rock and the other in Fayetteville), filed suit in federal court in Little Rock today over a law passed earlier this year that would make medical abortions less safe and require Planned Parenthood to contract with ob-gyns with surgical privileges.
The law, HB 1394 sponsored by state Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, requires women who wish to have a medical abortion — which Planned Parenthood provides — to use the Mifeprex abortifacient regime (mifipristone followed by misoprostol) at a dose much higher than now commonly prescribed. The higher dose, recommended by the FDA under an outdated protocol, has greater side effects, which proves that our state legislature and governor think women who don’t want motherhood forced on them simply because of their biology (think if the ledge forced men to become fathers!) should suffer.
The new law also requires women to come to the clinic to take the misoprostol, rather than allow them to take it at home, as has been the custom.
Doctors have been prescribing the drugs at the lower dosages for some time because the regime is just as effective and safer. As the Planned Parenthood news release notes, the FDA protocol is based on research performed 20 years ago. That was a good era for most of the folks in the Arkansas legislature. The press release also notes:
In new guidelines on medication abortion issued in March 2014, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Society of Family Planning write point-blank that: “evidence-based protocols for medical abortion are superior to the FDA-approved regimen.”
The law also requires an abortion provider to contract with a surgical ob-gyn with hospital admitting privileges to handle an emergency. Medical abortions are safe; emergencies are rare. Hospital emergency rooms are able to handle any miscarriage emergency in any case. Planned Parenthood has not been able to contract with such doctors nor does it administer the Mifeprex regime under the older, less safe protocol.
Unless a federal court grants an injunction, the new law will go into effect Jan. 1. The full news release is on the jump.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF THE HEARTLAND
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Susan.Allen@ppheartland.org or 515.249.6084
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 28, 2015
Planned Parenthood Files Suit to Protect Access to Abortion in Arkansas
“These restrictions will hurt women by shutting down access to safe medical care,” says Planned Parenthood
Today, Planned Parenthood filed a new lawsuit to protect Arkansas women’s access to safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood asked a federal court to block a law that would end access to two out of the three abortion-providing health centers in the state if it goes into effect as scheduled on January 1, 2016. The law would impose severe and medically unnecessary restrictions on medication abortion, a very safe method of abortion early in pregnancy. Because Planned Parenthood of the Heartland only provides medication abortion in Arkansas and would not be able to do so under the burdensome requirements of this law, the law severely limits abortion access for women in Arkansas, forcing women to travel to the sole remaining abortion provider in the state or travel out of state to find care – if they can access it at all.
Women in the United States have been safely and effectively using medication abortion for over a decade. In fact, nearly one in four women seeking an abortion will have a medication abortion if it is an available option for her. Data shows that medication abortion is one of the safest medical procedures today. In the exceedingly rare case of an emergency, providers have protocols in place to protect patient safety. Medication abortion gives a woman the option of a more private and what may feel like a less invasive method of ending a pregnancy, in a setting in which she feels most comfortable.
“As a physician who has practiced medicine in this community for many years, I’ve devoted my life to protecting the health and well-being of my patients. The bottom line is that abortion is very safe, and these restrictions will hurt women by shutting down access to safe medical care,” said Dr. Stephanie Ho, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s provider in Arkansas.
“Planned Parenthood is committed to protecting access to safe, legal abortion for every woman to consider if and when she needs it,” said Suzanna de Baca, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “We will continue to fight for the right of every woman to make her own medical decisions. No matter what.”
“It’s clear this law is part of a broader agenda to end access to safe, legal abortion entirely – and that’s what it would do for women outside of Little Rock. At Planned Parenthood, we will not back down and we will not shut our doors – which is why we are taking the state of Arkansas to court,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The law would force medication abortion providers to follow the inferior, outdated and less effective protocol described on the FDA’s final printed labeling (“FPL”) for one of the pills used in medication abortion. This protocol reflects research from almost 20 years ago. The way drugs are administered often evolves after the FDA approves a drug for use. The medical community often prescribes medicines for different uses and in different doses based on new research and their experience. The evidence-based regimen for medication abortion – the regimen used by the vast majority of medication abortion providers today, including Planned Parenthood physicians in Arkansas – is more effective and safer for patients than the FPL regimen. In new guidelines on medication abortion issued in March 2014, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Society of Family Planning write point-blank that: “evidence-based protocols for medical abortion are superior to the FDA-approved regimen.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) and ACOG urged a court to block a similar law in Arizona, writing: “The Arizona law impedes physician discretion and contravenes medical ethics by outlawing the safest, most effective method of medical abortion and relegating women to an outdated, inferior treatment. […] There is no question that the Arizona law confers significant risk and no benefit to women’s health. Put simply, the law is bad medicine.”
The Arkansas law also requires physicians that provide medication abortions to maintain a contract with another physician who has specific privileges at a hospital. Planned Parenthood’s suit asserts that this provision is difficult to meet for many reasons, including that it limits eligible backup providers to a very narrow scope of medical practitioners. Because Planned Parenthood cannot meet this requirement, despite months of attempting to find a physician with the required privileges willing to enter into a contract with it, this provision, if it goes into effect, will prevent Planned Parenthood’ health centers from providing medication abortion.
Medical experts, including the AMA and ACOG, oppose laws requiring abortion providers to have privileges at a hospital, writing that: “Abortion is a very safe procedure, and complications requiring hospital admission are extremely rare.
“Emergency room physicians, hospital-based physicians, and on-call specialists already provide prompt and effective treatment to all patients with urgent medical needs, including women with abortion-related complications.”