Federal Judge Blocks Medication Abortion Restriction in Arkansas

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Posted: Jun 19, 2018 12:45 PM
Federal Judge Blocks Medication Abortion Restriction in Arkansas

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary restraining order Monday against a 2015 Arkansas law that requires doctors who provide medication abortions to have an arrangement with another doctor who has admitting privileges to a hospital in case of complications.

In May, the Supreme Court declined to review Planned Parenthood's appeal of an appellate panel's July 2017 ruling. This left in place the panel’s ruling dissolving a preliminary injunction Baker issued in 2016 to stop enforcement of the law.

The justices offered no explanation for passing on the case, rejecting Planned Parenthood’s appeal in a one-line order.

This restraining order will allow medication abortions to resume at the Planned Parenthood facility in Little Rock and at Little Rock Family Planning Services.

Baker claims circumstances have changed since her 2016 preliminary injunction.

"The last time this Court examined the facts of this dispute was on March 14, 2016, over two years ago," Baker wrote.

She said poor women without transportation will face difficulties under the new restriction and will have to make two trips to Little Rock to obtain an abortion.

She blamed "widespread animus" toward abortion as part of the reason Planned Parenthood could not find doctors with admitting privileges to help them comply with the rule.

"There is evidence in the record that physicians who provide abortions or associate with physicians who provide abortions risk being ostracized from their communities and face harassment and violence toward themselves, their families, and their private practices,” Baker wrote. “Even if a physician is willing to take on these risks ... many private practice groups, hospitals, HMOs, and health networks will not permit physicians working for them to associate with abortion providers."

The Arkansas attorney general's office said in a statement Monday that they are disappointed in Baker’s decision.

"Attorney General (Leslie) Rutledge is disappointed in Judge Baker's decision to issue a temporary restraining order against an Arkansas law that protects the health of pregnant women," spokeswoman Jessica Ray said. "Judge Baker's ruling allows Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Clinic to administer medication abortions without the necessary safety net available for women who experience emergencies and complications."

Planned Parenthood lauded Baker’s restraining order Monday.

"Unbelievably detailed, rigorous, thorough. And, of course right. Addresses 8th Circuit's concern," Bettina Brownstein, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood wrote in an email to The Associated Press.