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At a time when Arkansans are still reeling from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strip people of their right to access safe, legal abortion care, Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith doubled down on plans to enforce criminal actions against providers offering what should be considered basic health care in a letter to Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP).

In the letter, Smith vowed to “prosecute any person for performing or attempting to perform an abortion with up to 10 years in prison or $100,000 fine,” with no exceptions for rape or incest. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Arkansas immediately moved to ban all abortions. PPGP, which operates a health center in Rogers, has never offered abortion care at that location.   

"While Arkansans are dealing with grief, fear, and frustration over the loss of rights they held for nearly 50 years, we're getting letters like this at a health center where we have never provided abortion services. The people of Arkansas, and certainly providers of sexual and reproductive care, are fully aware there is no right in this state to safe, legal abortion,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “Sending a letter to the media before you give a copy to the intended recipient doesn't feel like following the law – it feels like making a play for headlines and scaring off victims who otherwise should be able to turn to law enforcement for empathy and support. Let me be clear: our Rogers Health Center has never provided abortion care, which we would expect a local prosecutor to know. But in case he needs reminding, our doors remain open for other comprehensive care. Instead, we urge him to address actual problems in Benton County including the nearly 20 percent increase in sex crimes last year. There’s work to be done and this isn’t it.”

PPGP’s Rogers Health Center opened in September 2021, and continues to see patients for time-sensitive services, including birth control, STI and HIV testing and treatment, gender-affirming care, primary care, and more. Rogers’s patients can also access safe, high-quality, affordable health care services through PPGP’s telehealth services, which includes secure, private video appointments, and birth control on demand through the Planned Parenthood Direct app.

Anticipating the end to a constitutional right to safe, legal abortion, while facing state-by-state bans that worsen structural racism and disproportionally harm low-income and rural communities, PPGP recently established the Center for Abortion and Reproductive Equity (CARE). This center brings together PPGP’s expertise in lowering barriers to comprehensive care, with a commitment to addressing the structural challenges faced by marginalized communities in accessing health care.

CARE helps patients navigate a regional network of abortion providers and mental health, social work, and community-based organizations who can provide follow-up support and advocacy opportunities for patients in the places they call home.