Court clears way for Arkansas abor­tion pill rules

El Dorado News-Times - - Local -

LIT­TLE ROCK (AP) — An ap­peals court panel cleared the way Fri­day for Arkansas to re­strict how the abor­tion pill is ad­min­is­tered in the state, say­ing a judge didn't es­ti­mate how many women would be bur­dened by a 2015 law's re­quire­ment.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in St. Louis va­cated U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Kris­tine Baker's pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion against the law. The mea­sure re­quires doc­tors pro­vid­ing the pill to main­tain a con­tract with an­other physi­cian with ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at a hospi­tal who agrees to han­dle any com­pli­ca­tions.

The panel sent the case back to Baker and said the judge should look into the num­ber of women who would be un­duly bur­dened by the re­quire­ment and whether it amounts to a "large frac­tion" of women seek­ing the abor­tion pill in Arkansas. Arkansas won't be able to en­force the law un­til the ap­peals court de­ci­sion takes ef­fect in about 14 to 21 days, the at­tor­ney gen­eral's of­fice said.

"The court cor­rectly held that in­di­vid­u­als for whom the con­tract-physi­cian re­quire­ment was an ac­tual, rather than an ir­rel­e­vant, re­stric­tion were women seek­ing med­i­ca­tion abor­tions in Arkansas. Nonethe­less, it did not de­fine or es­ti­mate the num­ber of women who would be un­duly bur­dened by the con­tract-physi­cian re­quire­ment," the 8th Cir­cuit panel wrote. "In­stead, it fo­cused on amor­phous groups of women to reach its con­clu­sion that the Act was fa­cially

un­con­sti­tu­tional."

Planned Par­ent­hood has said it would no longer be able to of­fer the abor­tion pill at its Lit­tle Rock and Fayet­teville health cen­ters if the law takes ef­fect; it does not of­fer sur­gi­cal abor­tions at those clin­ics. The other abor­tion provider in the state would be able to of­fer only sur­gi­cal abor­tions.

Planned Par­ent­hood Great Plains, which had sued over the re­stric­tions, said all abor­tion ser­vices will con­tinue at its Lit­tle Rock and Fayet­teville

fa­cil­i­ties while the group eval­u­ates its le­gal op­tions.

"Let's be clear, laws like this one have no ba­sis in qual­ity pa­tient care and are in­tended to end ac­cess to safe, le­gal abor­tion," Laura McQuade, pres­i­dent and CEO of Planned Par­ent­hood Great Plains, said in a state­ment. "Ide­o­log­i­cal ex­trem­ists in the state house, not med­i­cal ex­perts, de­sign these poli­cies that have no ba­sis in med­i­cal science."

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge, a Repub­li­can, de­scribed the leg­is­la­tion as a "com­mon sense law" that pro­tects women's health.

"The in­junc­tion was

va­cated be­cause Planned Par­ent­hood failed to show that the state law is a sub­stan­tial ob­sta­cle, pre­vent­ing most women from hav­ing ac­cess to abor­tion ser­vices," she said in a state­ment.

The de­ci­sion came as Baker is weigh­ing whether to block four new Arkansas abor­tion laws, three of which are set to take ef­fect next week. The laws be­ing chal­lenged in­clude a ban on a com­mon sec­ond-trimester abor­tion pro­ce­dure and part of a mea­sure pro­hibit­ing doc­tors from per­form­ing abor­tions based solely on whether the mother wants a boy or a girl.

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