Tuesday Supreme Court Decision a Painful Blow to Arkansas Women Seeking Abortions

The Supreme Court decided today not to hear an appeal brought forth by Planned Parenthood in defense of Arkansas abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood asked SCOTUS to review a decision made by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals about a 2015 Arkansas law. The law effectively forbids medication-induced abortions and will force two of the state’s three abortion clinics to stop providing abortions, according to a Planned Parenthood statement.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 34 states presently forbid the administration of medication abortions except by licensed doctors, and 19 states forbid doctors from prescribing abortion medication remotely. The Arkansas law is unique in that it requires medication abortion providers to contract with a second physician who has hospital admitting privileges. In a conservative state, it can be very difficult or impossible to find physicians willing to fill this role.

The Associated Press reports that abortion clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville have tried to contract with local obstetricians, but none have agreed to work with them. These two locations only provide medication abortions, not surgical abortions. In the past, Planned Parenthood has said that this law could result in the closure of these two clinics.

Planned Parenthood will continue to fight the Arkansas law in the courts, but the state can now enforce the law. The law will require abortion care providers who provide medication abortions to contract with a physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The physician would also need to be willing to treat patients if complications arose from the abortion, the AP reports. The restrictions will go into place this July unless a court sides with Planned Parenthood.

SCOTUS did not offer any comment as to why it decided against hearing the case, according to the AP. Abortion advocates, however, have plenty to say.

“Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion,” Dawn Laguens, Vice Executive President of Planned Parenthood for America, said in a statement provided to Brit + Co. “This dangerous law immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but one health center in the state. If that’s not an undue burden, what is?”

Dr. Benjamin Hill, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, whose network includes the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, said in a statement: “We are deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to deny Arkansas women the opportunity to be heard.” He also said that Planned Parenthood Great Plains is “working urgently to restore access to medication abortion services at our health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock.”

Planned Parenthood argues that their current case is similar to Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, in which SCOTUS decided in favor of an abortion clinic in Texas after TRAP laws shut down many clinics in the state. Regarding the similarities between the cases, Planned Parenthood said in its statement: “In 2016, the Supreme Court clearly ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that abortion restrictions that are medically unnecessary and burden women are unconstitutional… Yet, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block a nearly identical Arkansas law, requiring certain factual findings which we will now urge the district court to make.”

If the law is allowed to take full effect, patients seeking a medication abortion may have to travel hundreds of miles to get to a clinic and receive the care they require. With states including Iowa passing extremely restrictive abortion laws and several states already down to just one clinic, each and every abortion clinic remains vital.

What do you think? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty Images; Illustration by Sarah Tate)

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