This comes just hours after the Supreme Court declined to intervene, and patients have been turned away at Planned Parenthood health centers.
Law threatens to ban abortion entirely for one-quarter of all medication abortion patients in Arkansas and 36 percent of women in Fayetteville
Washington, D.C. — This evening, Planned Parenthood filed for emergency relief in federal district court hours after the Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case challenging a 2015 Arkansas abortion restriction. Today, as a result, Arkansas became the first state to effectively ban medication abortion. It also ended access to abortion at all but one health center in the state (down from three). Patients scheduled for their medication abortions today were turned away and health center staff spent the day notifying additional patients they would not be able to access medication abortion in Arkansas. Now, women who would have otherwise been able to have an abortion in Fayetteville will be forced to go out-of-state for an abortion or make a 380-mile round-trip (more than 5 hours of travel time) to access an abortion in Little Rock.
In its filing, Planned Parenthood made clear the extreme harm this law would cause women: one-quarter of medication abortion patients in the state and 36 percent of women in the Fayetteville area would lose access to safe, legal abortion altogether. Others would be delayed or face other burdens in accessing care.
The district court previously blocked the 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 impact all women seeking medication abortion in the state. Planned Parenthood is now asking the district court to make those findings.
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 are similar to those that may occur from miscarriage, which OB-GYNs and other physicians treat every day.
Statement from Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
At this late hour, we are continuing to fight for our patients. We will not rest until we’ve done everything we can to ensure Arkansas women can access medication abortion once again. Doctors shouldn’t have to turn away patients who look to them for help, and that’s what happened today. It is unacceptable and we will fight to right this wrong, no matter what.
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. Yet, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block a nearly identical Arkansas law, requiring certain factual findings which we will now urge the district court to make in order to protect access to safe, legal abortion. 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 those 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