Relief comes after Planned Parenthood spent more than two weeks turning abortion patients away since the Supreme Court allowed a dangerous law to take effect.
The effect of the law is to ban medication abortion entirely and end abortion at all but one health center in the state
Washington, D.C. — Today, a federal district court granted a temporary restraining order against an abortion restriction that took effect last month. The law bans access to medication abortion, making Arkansas the first state to do so. It also ends access to any type of abortion at all but one health center in the state. After the Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect, health center staff were forced to immediately call patients to inform them they would no longer be able to access their medication abortion. Women were left scrambling to alter their work and child care schedules, and to secure additional funds required to undergo the state-mandated counseling process over again for a surgical abortion or to travel out of state, further delaying care. Some of these patients were already en route to the health center when they received the call.
The law results in one-quarter of all medication abortion patients (and 36 percent of medication abortion patients in Fayetteville) being prevented from having an abortion entirely, according to expert testimony in the case. The temporary restraining order issued today will immediately restore access to medication abortion for women who have been making last-minute arrangements to travel out of state or have had to travel hundreds of miles to seek surgical abortion from the last remaining provider in Little Rock.
The district court said today, the law “...imposes significant burdens on a large fraction of Arkansas women seeking medication abortions against a near absence of evidence that the law promotes any state interest or provides any benefits to those women.” Furthermore, the district court recognized the restriction “...causes ongoing and imminent irreparable harm to the plaintiffs and their patients.” The order will remain in place for two weeks, during which time the plaintiffs will ask the court for a preliminary injunction blocking the law as the case proceeds.
Mainstream medical groups oppose this restriction, including the esteemed American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which wrote: “The requirement...does nothing to enhance the quality or safety of abortion care, and in fact creates a grave risk to public health.” Abortions are very safe. Studies, including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demonstrate that abortion has a more than 99 percent safety record. In those rare cases when complications do occur, they present much like miscarriage symptoms, which OB-GYNs and other physicians treat every day.
Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
After more than two weeks of talking with patients experiencing distress and frustration as a result of this law, we are pleased the district court has eased their burden, for now. We will never stop fighting for every person’s right to control their own bodies, including the right to decide if and when to become a parent.
Statement from Brandon Hill, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains:
Today’s ruling is a victory for the women of Arkansas. For more than two weeks, our patients had to live with uncertainty, enduring the cancellation of appointments and a lack of options. The court’s decision offers relief to our patients, at least for now. We will continue to do everything we can to protect our patients’ right to safe, legal abortion.
In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that abortion restrictions that are medically unnecessary and burden women are unconstitutional. In that landmark decision, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law requiring that abortion providers hold hospital admitting privileges. In line with that ruling, the district court previously blocked the nearly identical Arkansas law, finding that rather than protecting women’s health and safety, the law is instead “a solution in search of a problem.” Yet, the Eighth Circuit refused to block the law, requiring additional findings from the district court to block an abortion restriction, even though the law will end abortion in Fayetteville and affect all women seeking medication abortion in the state. This law will harm all Arkansas women, but it will be hardest for people who already face barriers to care, including people of color, young people, and people with low incomes.
While Arkansas politicians are doing everything they can to block access to abortion, support for access to safe, legal abortion is at a record high, with nearly 70 percent of Americans supporting Roe v. Wade — the highest rate since the case was decided more than 40 years ago.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.