Yesterday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the state of Arkansas to immediately let a medically unnecessary restriction on abortion access take effect, allowing Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) to continue providing medication abortion services while the legal battle over the Arkansas law continues. Act 577, which is strikingly similar to a restriction the Supreme Court struck down in its landmark Whole
Woman’s Health decision, and which requires providers of medication abortion to contract with a back-up physician who has privileges at a hospital, briefly took effect earlier this year and made Arkansas the first state to effectively ban medication abortion.
Women in Arkansas were left with only one option for abortion services in the state, a surgical abortion provider in Little Rock.
Last month, a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law, recognizing the devastating effects the law had on women in Arkansas, while at the same time, conferring no benefits whatsoever. The state appealed to the Eighth Circuit and also sought a stay of the preliminary injunction, which would allow the law to take immediate effect. Yesterday, the Eighth Circuit denied the stay motion and instead allowed women to continue accessing care while the appeal continues. Although the decision is critical for patients seeking abortion care, the fight to protect access long-term is ongoing.
With Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court raising alarming questions about the future of Roe v. Wade, the battle over abortion access in states like Arkansas has national implications. Kavanaugh has already ruled to limit access to safe, legal abortion while serving on the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Statement from Planned Parenthood Great Plains President and CEO Dr. Brandon J. Hill:
“Though we know the case is far from over, we’re thrilled that this decision will allow women to continue accessing safe, legal abortion in the immediate future. The district court’s thoughtful ruling demonstrated that real harm comes from creating obstacles for women seeking abortion, and the Eighth Circuit’s ruling allows that decision to stand for now. For our patients, staff, and supporters, this is a small but important victory in our larger fight to uphold access to health care. State politicians will no doubt stick to their strategies of scare tactics and obstruction — and we’ll continue focusing on providing our patients with high-quality, comprehensive care.”