It would be interesting to know why Arkansas Department of Health inspectors have, for the first time, been concerned whether there is a Red Cross phone number posted in clinics that provide abortion services.
In recent inspections, the department found infractions in rules at Arkansas's Planned Parenthood clinics that could have put their licenses in jeopardy. In Little Rock, the clinic did not list the Red Cross' phone number on their emergency contact sheet. In Fayetteville, the clinic was using washable cloth booties on the stirrups that women place their feet in while undergoing an ultrasound, apparently a no-no.
The infractions were corrected within the 30-day limit the law sets, so no licenses were suspended. But as a result of the citations issued, over infractions that have gotten a pass for the many years the clinics have been in business (why the heck would a patient need to call the Red Cross for help?), plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state law, which requires such draconian actions for abortion providers only, filed affidavits in federal Judge James Moody's court yesterday using the state's action to bolster their case and asking that he enter a declaratory judgment ruling the state law as unconstitutional.
"Since briefing and oral argument on this motion, additional factual developments have occurred that further illustrate the unconstitutionally of the Act, and that quell any possible concerns regarding the ripeness of Plaintiffs' claims and/or Plaintiffs' standing to assert these claims," attorney Bettina Brownstein wrote the court.
So who put the pressure on Health Department inspectors to threaten to shut down women's health clinics over such infinitesimally insignificant rules? Not the professionals at the health department, I'm guessing. I see in this the hand of a legislator who believes he (or she) should be in charge of other people's health decisions. The Times
has asked the Health Department whether any other clinical service to whom this regulation applies — and there are others — has received a warning letter threatening license suspension and at whose direction the inspectors decided to cite such infractions.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains, Little Rock Family Planning and the ACLU are the plaintiffs challenging what is known by women's rights supporters as a TRAP law (targeted restrictions against abortion).
Before the suit went before Judge Moody on Aug. 1, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Interim President and CEO Aaron Samulcek described the law as “an unjust, ideologically-motivated roadblock for abortion providers like PPGP and LRFP. Arkansas already has a heavily regulated licensing and inspection process, but this law sets up a regulatory minefield that no other health care
provider in the state is forced to navigate. Despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures with minimal complication rates, this medically-unnecessary law threatens health care access for Arkansas women who live in a state where access to safe, legal abortion is already extremely limited.”
Moody has not yet made his ruling in the case.