By Dave Andrusko
As NRL News Today has reported multiple times, Act 577 was passed in 2015. The commonsense law requires abortion clinics providing chemical abortifacients [also known as “medication abortion” or “RU-486” abortions] to have a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a local hospital who agrees to handle complications.
Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Fayetteville and Little Rock, Arkansas, do not perform surgical abortions but do administer abortifacients. “Bettina Brownstein, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said the physician is also contracting with a third facility in Little Rock not affiliated with the organization that administers the pills and also performs surgical abortions,” according to the Associated Press’ Andrew DeMillo.
Last July U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Act 577 “but ordered Planned Parenthood to continue trying to find a contracting physician,” DeMillo reported. Once Planned Parenthood demonstrated it had found the unnamed physician, both parties asked a federal appeals court to lift Judge Baker’s ruling that had prevented the state from enforcing the law’s requirement.
“The removal of the preliminary injunction will allow Arkansas law to take effect, ensuring that women have access to reliable emergency health care following complications associated with medication abortions,” Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. “After challenging this requirement for three years and claiming it could not comply, Planned Parenthood has finally agreed to follow this common-sense law.”
There is an almost exact parallel case in Missouri. Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri challenged a regulation issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in October 2017. That DHSS regulation required that abortion providers performing chemical abortions have two ob-gyns on call 24/7 who have admitting privileges.
On June 12 Judge Beth Phillips ruled that Planned Parenthood affiliates had not shown that the regulation “is a substantial burden to a large fraction of women seeking a medication abortion.”
And last September, a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ three-judge panel ruled that a 2014 Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital passes constitutional muster. That 2-1 ruling reverses the 2017 ruling of federal district court Judge John deGravelles, who had blocked the law.
That law applied to all abortion clinics, not just those administering chemical abortifacients.