Federal judge blocks enforcement of anti-abortion law in Arkansas

Federal judge blocks enforcement of anti-abortion law in Arkansas
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A federal judge temporarily blocked a law that critics say would make Arkansas the first state to ban abortion pills.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction Monday evening in favor of Planned Parenthood.


The 2015 law requires that doctors who provide medical abortions have a contract with a second doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital. The injunction prevents the state from enforcing the law, but abortion clinics must continue trying to contract with physicians.

The state is temporarily banned from imposing any civil or criminal penalties on providers who continue to perform medication abortions while they look for physicians to contract with.

Planned Parenthood says the law effectively makes medication abortion illegal in the state because it hasn't been able to find any physicians willing to contract with its facilities.

Arkansas previously fought a lengthy legal battle over the law.

Baker issued a preliminary injunction in 2016, which the state appealed. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that injunction but agreed to keep it in place while Planned Parenthood petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case.

The Supreme Court recently declined to hear the case, allowing the law to stand. As a result, Planned Parenthood said, medication abortion became unavailable at all but one health center in the state.

Planned Parenthood presented new evidence to Baker that resulted in Monday's injunction. The order will remain in effect while a lawsuit on the constitutionality of the law plays out.

Baker indicated Planned Parenthood is likely to prevail in the case.

Planned Parenthood argues that the state law contradicts Supreme Court precedent established by Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, when the court ruled that requiring admitting privileges is medically unnecessary and creates an undue burden for women.

Planned Parenthood used Monday's injunction to highlight the importance of the upcoming fight over Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's eventual successor.

“Today’s ruling in Arkansas sheds light on what’s at stake for women in this country," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, in a statement. "When this law went into effect for two weeks, we saw patients scrambling, without another plan."

"We cannot and will not let that become a reality for women nationwide," Laguens added. "Now is the time for us to unite and fight for everyone’s rights and freedoms — and to call on our Senators to reject any Supreme Court nominee who opposes Roe v. Wade.”