By Dave Andrusko
So it was amusing and revealing to read the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s account of what happened in her courtroom this morning.
In 2015 Judge Baker issued a preliminary injunction against Arkansas’ “Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act.” The law required abortion clinics providing chemical abortifacients to have a contract with another physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital who agrees to handle any complications.
However in July 2017, a three judge panel of the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the injunction. To no one’s surprise, Planned Parenthood Great Plains appealed.
But, as NRL News Today readers will recall, last week the Supreme Court rejected the appeal which allowed the state to begin enforcing the law.
So what’s the backup plan for Planned Parenthood Great Plains? What else, go back to Judge Baker and ask for a restraining order against Act 577 to temporarily halt the enforcement the law.
Baker took the request under advisement, saying she wasn’t certain how she is supposed to proceed in response to an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last summer that dissolved a previous injunction she issued. …
Baker asked attorneys for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates one clinic each in Little Rock and Fayetteville, to submit written briefs by noon Wednesday on how they believe she should proceed, such as whether she should make additional findings before deciding the injunction request. She told attorneys that if she still has questions after reviewing the briefs, she will hold a telephone conference with them in open court to address those questions before ruling on the injunction request.
In other words, Judge Baker was saying, “Hey guys, I know what the Eighth Circuit and the Supreme Court have said, so how do we get around it? Please advise by Wednesday and when it’s obvious you haven’t a leg to stand on, I’ll call you and we’ll figure out something.”
Of course, Judge Baker will give them the temporary injunction and of course on the substance of the challenge to the law itself will conclude (as she did in 2015) that the law “would result in an undue burden and would have the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
She dismissed the state’s case, adding, “At this early stage of the proceeding, the court finds that, in the case of medication abortion, any benefit of admitting privileges in terms of continuity of care is incrementally small.”
But when the appeals court panel vacated the injunction, the state attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, said, “In a unanimous opinion, the 8th Circuit recognized that the lower court incorrectly analyzed the law.”
The injunction was vacated because Planned Parenthood failed to show that the state law is a substantial obstacle, preventing most women from having access to abortion services. This common sense law will help ensure that medication abortions are conducted in a safe, responsible manner and with appropriate protections for women. While the Court did not reach a final decision on the ultimate merits, today’s decision is an important notice to the lower court that this law has important benefits for patients. I will continue to defend Act 577 as Planned Parenthood continues its challenge.