U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker will hold a hearing at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in the suit filed yesterday by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland over a new state law regulating medical abortion. Planned Parenthood has asked for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction to keep the law from taking effect Jan. 1.
Planned Parenthood says the law, which requires providers of medication abortion to contract with a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital to provide emergency care and to administer the medications at an outdated FDA-approved dosage now deemed less safe to women, will have the effect of preventing Arkansas women from obtaining a medical abortion and is unconstitutional.
State Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, was lead sponsor of the bill, HB 1394, that became Act 557.
The lawsuit notes that
Because PPH cannot comply — despite diligent efforts to do so — with the contracted physician requirement and because of the burdens of the FPL mandate, enforcement of the Act will result in a dramatic reduction of women’s access to abortion in Arkansas. Today, abortions are available at three health centers in Arkansas: PPH offers medication abortion at its health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock, and another provider offers surgical and medication abortion in Little Rock. Without relief from this Court, as of January I, 2016, PPH will be forced to stop providing abortions entirely, leaving only one health center in the state, which will offer only surgical abortion. Due to this unnecessary law, women in Fayetteville will be forced to travel three hours each way to Little Rock to have a surgical abortion, and women statewide will lose access to a safe, early method of abortion using medications alone.
The new law requires three visits by a woman to a provider — to consult, to receive the mifepristone and to return for the misoprostol (which Arkansas women may take in the privacy of their own home until Jan. 1) — to have a medical abortion, and requires the provider to administer the abortifacient mifepristone at a dosage deemed appropriate by the federal Food and Drug Administration based on 20-year-old research. Doctors now know that a lower dosage is just as effective and has fewer side effects. But who cares what doctors know, right? The politicians in the state legislature and the governor think they know better when it comes to women’s health care.
When they say they want the drug administered safely at the old dosage, what they really mean is they want women who wish not to carry a fetus to term to suffer.
Judge Baker’s courtroom is on the fourth floor of the federal building at Broadway and Fifth streets.