Planned Parenthood has asked a federal appeals court for a stay of a previous order so that it may continue to provide abortions at clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville while it appeals. Here’s the petition:
Should the petitions fail, women in Arkansas would not be able to obtain a medical (by pill) abortion, either at Planned Parenthood’s two clinics or Little Rock Family Planning, the only three abortion providers in Arkansas.
In July, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals lifted district Judge Kristine Baker’s injunction against a new Arkansas law that requires providers to have hospital admitting privileges to continue providing pills that induce miscarriages in the first 8-9 weeks of pregnancy. This is the only type of abortion Planned Parenthood provides. It has been unable to line up doctors because they fear retaliation from anti-abortion forces.
Judge Baker had ruled the law was an impermissible restriction on the right to an abortion. The 8th Circuit said Planned Parenthood had not sufficiently proved an undue burden on women and sent the case back to Baker for more hearings. But with an injunction lifted, women in Arkansas would only have surgical abortion — performed at a later stage of pregnancy and riskier to the woman’s health — as an option. A private clinic in Little Rock, Little Rock Family Planning, that now provides both pharmaceutical and clinical abortions has litigation pending over other state law restrictions aimed at putting it out of business.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains, which oversees the two Planned Parenthood Arkansas clinics, has asked the 8th Circuit for a stay while it petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. If the 8th Circuit refuses a stay for that appeal, the law will take effect. But a Planned Parenthood spokesman said the law will not take effect and abortions will continue until the 8th Circuit has ruled.
Planned Parenthood said it is preparing to introduce testimony from Dr. Stanley Henshaw, a reproductive epidemiologist, who will say that ending Planned Parenthood abortions would particularly harm women who used the Fayetteville clinic. He says studies indicate travel of 100 miles can discourage a quarter of women from seeking abortions. Since women would have to make two trips, by law, to have an abortion in Little Rock — women in Fayetteville would face two 380-mile round
Planned Parenthood also will present testimony from its physician, Dr. Stephanie Ho, on the lack of medical necessity for the laws and the impact on patients. Judge Baker heard similar testimony and drew on it heavily for her opinion that the state had gone too far. The 8th Circuit, however, is notably conservative, more so than other appellate courts, particularly when it comes to abortion rights.
In a statement released this afternoon, Ho said:
“This attack on women’s health care is inexcusable. If Act 577 goes into effect, my patients will have zero medication abortion options in the entire state of Arkansas. This means they’ll have to wait longer to obtain an abortion and will face even longer travel times. This will drive up costs for women and may even cause enough delay that they cannot obtain an abortion at all, which is the whole point of laws such as Act 577.”
“For nearly a quarter of patients in Fayetteville, abortion will be inaccessible altogether. Forcing women into a situation where they have no safe, legal medical options is downright negligent. Act 577 was put forth under the guise of improving safety for women, when in all actuality, has the potential to force women to seek unsafe options for termination. As a doctor, this goes against every tenet of my medical profession.”
“Laws like Act 577 in Arkansas have no basis in the standard of care. I took an oath, just like every other medical professional, to do what is right for my patients, and my patients already face nearly insurmountable odds to access safe, legal abortion as it is. Act 577 is only going to create more harm to the health and well-being of Arkansans needing access to sexual and reproductive health care.”
In other abortion news, the U.S. House today passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Such bans in state law, including in Arkansas, have repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional. Said the National Abortion Federation:
This bill is another attempt by anti-choice politicians to appease their base after multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have recently failed. Congress should not pass laws that disregard the Constitution or the real circumstances and complications women can face during pregnancy.
All four Arkansas congressman voted for the restriction on women’s medical rights.