In a hearing on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker heard arguments from Little Rock Family Planning Services, Arkansas’ only surgical abortion clinic, and Planned Parenthood challenging three abortion laws passed during the legislative session this year. One of the laws would require doctors performing abortions in the state to be board-certified or eligible in obstetrics and gynecology; if Baker doesn’t block the law from taking effect by Wednesday, the director of Little Rock Family Planning said the clinic could close within a month.
Lori Williams, director of Little Rock Family Planning, said the clinic has only has one board-certified physician who would be able to practice under the new law: Dr. Frederick Hopkins, who lives in California and travels to work at the Little Rock clinic every other month for three or four days. With Hopkins’ limited availability, the clinic would not be able to serve a large number of women seeking abortions, which Williams said would, in turn, keep the clinic from being able to pay staff members and overhead costs.
Little Rock Family Planning and Planned Parenthood also challenged a law that would ban abortions after 18 weeks, and another that would ban abortions sought by women for the sole reason that the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Dr. Jason Lido, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University, testified that if the board certification requirement went into effect, 63-70 percent of women would be unable to obtain the same type of abortion care they had previously received in Arkansas, while 89-100 percent of women would be unable to get a surgical abortion in the state.
Williams said that about 95 percent of the services Little Rock Family Planning provides are abortions. She added that the clinic sent out letters to every obstetrician-gynecologist in the state to see if any who are board-certified or eligible would be interested in working with the clinic to provide abortions, but received no responses.
Baker did not issue a ruling on Monday after eight hours of testimony from the attorneys representing Little Rock Family Planning and Planned Parenthood and those representing the state in its defense. She said she will issue a written ruling on Tuesday after taking the day’s proceedings under advisement.