AP reports that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request by Planned Parenthood to have the entire court review a decision by a three-judge panel ordering further hearings by a district court judge on a new state law that could put Planned Parenthood out of the abortion business in Arkansas.
A new state law requires abortion providers to hire a doctor with hospital admitting privileges, even to administer pills used to induce miscarriages in the first weeks of pregnancy, despite an absence of evidence that the pills are even as dangerous as natural childbirth.
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Federal Judge Kristine Baker ruled the law unconstitutional. The three-judge panel reversed Baker and ordered her to hold hearings on how many women would be unduly burdened by the law’s new restriction. Doctors are unwilling to associate with Planned Parenthood for fear of retaliation by anti-abortion forces. Without such doctors, Planned Parenthood could no longer supply the pills at its clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock. But one clinical abortion provider remains in Little Rock, so theoretically women in this area could turn to that clinic for the pills.
Planned Parenthood responded:
Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit declined PlannedParenthood Great Plains’ (PPGP) request for a rehearing en banc in its case against a dangerous law that, if allowed to take effect, would eliminate access to abortion at all but one health center in Arkansas. It would also completely end access to medication abortion—a safe, early, and effective form of abortion—for women in the state.
In states like Missouri where similar restrictions have reduced the state to one abortion provider, and Texas where health centers shuttered across the state, women have been forced to drive hundreds of miles or travel out of state to access abortions, if they can at all.
In recent years, state-level politicians have secretly passed nearly 400 restrictions on safe, legal abortion nationwide, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Today’s decision does not result in the restriction going into effect immediately. Planned
Parenthood is evaluating all options to ensure our patients can continue to get the care they need at our health centers in Little Rock and Fayetteville.
“This is not over. We’re continuing to serve our patients in Little Rock and Fayetteville while we do everything in our power to protect their access to care,” said Aaron Samulcek, Interim President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “PPGP’s priority is to ensure Arkansans have access to expert, compassionate health care. This law does just the opposite by cutting off access to qualified medical providers. The extremists who put this law into place will now be responsible for the lives they’ve put in harm’s way.”
“This dangerous ruling cannot and will not stand,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “For too many women today, the legal right to abortion does not translate into access, especially for young people, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes. Each of us deserves the right to decide whether and when to become a parent.”
For now, abortion services continue. But it’s not clear how long that might last or what further steps might be taken. The law is in effect and, in the case of past court decisions, it has been said issuance and filing of the order could trigger the law taking effect. Planned Parenthood could also seek a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. The organization said matters are still in flux on