Planned Parenthood Great Plans petitioned the Supreme Court Thursday to stop an Arkansas law that, they argue, would effectively ban medication abortion.
Arkansas' Act 577 mandates that doctors who provide medication abortion must contract with a second doctor who holds admitting privileges at a local hospital. The measure is meant to ensure a woman’s safety in case complications arise, but Planned Parenthood claims that the regulations are unnecessary and restrict abortion access.
There are three abortion clinics in Arkansas, and two of them offer medication abortion as their only abortion option. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood argue that Act 577 would effectively ban abortion by pill due to the difficulty abortion doctors have in remote areas in getting hospital credentials combined with some hospitals’ religious objections to the procedure.
The nation’s largest abortion provider initially filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the measure. A federal district judge blocked the act in 2016, but the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the judge’s injunction in July.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards compared the case to Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt in which the Supreme Court ruled against a Texas law requiring that abortion clinic doctors have admitting privileges to a local hospital.
“The Supreme Court already looked at a nearly identical Texas restriction and found it to be unconstitutional," Richards said in a statement. "The impact would be even more severe in Arkansas, making it the first and only state to effectively ban medication abortion. This law is yet another attempt by politicians to control women’s bodies and quietly ban abortion."
Pro-life advocacy groups, including Americans United for Life (AUL), argue that Arkansas has a right to regulate chemical abortion procedures.
“The Court of Appeals correctly concluded under the Supreme Court’s established abortion jurisprudence that the trial court should not have issued an injunction against the operation of a state law regulating the risky practice of chemical abortion, when the abortion advocate-plaintiffs had been unwilling or unable to prove how many women in Arkansas would be impacted by the law,” Americans United for Life Chief Legal Officer Steven H. Aden commented. “Planned Parenthood, which makes millions annually as America’s biggest abortion provider, shouldn’t get a free pass from the High Court permitting it to nullify state abortion laws just because some abortion businesses would rather close than spend the money to comply with the law.”