Court Delays Law That Would Stop Planned Parenthood From Doing Abortions in Arkansas

A sign in support of Planned Parenthood is seen outside a town hall meeting for Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy in Metairie, Louisiana, U.S. February 22, 2017.
A sign in support of Planned Parenthood is seen outside a town hall meeting for Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy in Metairie, Louisiana, U.S. February 22, 2017. | (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

A three judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has put a halt to the enforcement of a 2015 law that would have effectively stopped Planned Parenthood from doing abortions in Arkansas.

Last Friday, the panel granted the nation's largest abortion provider's request to halt the implementation of Arkansas' Act 577, reversing an earlier ruling from an Eighth Circuit panel.

"The organization said it planned to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The court did not elaborate on its reason for the stay in its one-page order," reported the Associated Press.

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Asa Hutchinson is the Governor of Arkansas.
Asa Hutchinson is the Governor of Arkansas.

"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. Surgical abortions are not performed at those centers."

Also called the Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act, Act 577 was passed by the state legislature in March 2015 and signed into law later that year by Governor Asa Hutchinson.

"It shall be unlawful to knowingly give, sell, dispense, administer, or otherwise provide or prescribe an abortion-inducing drug to a pregnant woman to induce an abortion or enabling another person to induce an abortion, unless the person who gives, sells, dispenses, administers, or otherwise provides or prescribes the abortion-inducing drug is a physician and the provision or prescription of the abortion-inducing drug satisfies the protocol authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration, as outlined in the final printed labeling for the drug or drug regimen," read the law in part.

Originally meant to go into effect on New Year's Day 2016, in Dec. 2015 Planned Parenthood filed suit to get the new law overturned.

In late Dec. 2015, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker put a temporary restraining order on the implementation of Act 577 and then in Jan. 2016 issued a preliminary injunction against the new law.

In Aug. 2016, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge filed a brief requesting that the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reverse Judge Baker's injunction.

Last July, a three judge panel of the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of Rutledge's request, arguing that the district court had failed to properly assess the degree to which women would be given an undue burden due to the law's impact on abortion access.

"[The district court] did not define or estimate the number of women who would be unduly burdened by the contract-physician requirement. Instead, it focused on amorphous groups of women to reach its conclusion that the Act was facially unconstitutional," ruled the panel.

"Accordingly, we vacate the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

Regarding last Friday's decision Judd Deere, a spokesman for Ark. Attorney General Rutledge, said in a statement to Arkansas Online that the ruling was "unfortunate."

"It is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood continues to fight reasonable, common-sense health and safety regulations to ensure that medication abortions are conducted in a safe manner," stated Deere.

"Attorney General Rutledge will continue to defend this law and urge the Supreme Court of the United States to reject certiorari."

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