Judge temporarily blocks Arkansas' medical abortion ban

By Ray Downs  |  June 19, 2018 at 8:28 PM
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June 19 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Monday issued a restraining order that will temporarily stop an Arkansas law that prohibits medical abortions.

In May, medical abortions were banned in Arkansas after the Supreme Court declined to review Planned Parenthood's appeal of a lower court's decision to allow the ban. But U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker said Planned Parenthood's argument against the ban would likely succeed.

"In regard to burdens, considered cumulatively, the record evidence at this stage of the litigation demonstrates that the contracted physician requirement, given plaintiffs' inability to comply with it, significantly burdens a large faction of women in Arkansas seeking medication abortions," Baker wrote in her opinion.

Baker also said the ban made little sense from a medical perspective since it uses a pill to induce abortions with few serious side effects and has a mortality rate of one per 100,000, which is comparable to a first-trimester surgery abortion.

"Both of these rates are lower than the mortality rate for childbirth, which is 8.8 per 100,000; the mortality rate associated with penicillin which is two per 100,000; and the mortality rate from outpatient plastic surgery procedures in accredited facilities which is 1.7 per 100,000 procedures," Baker wrote.

Brandon Hill, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains in Arkansas, praised Baker's decision.

"Today's ruling is a victory for the women of Arkansas," Hill said in a statement. "For more than two weeks, our patients had to live with uncertainty, enduring the cancellation of appointments and a lack of options. The court's decision offers relief to our patients, at least for now. We will continue to do everything we can to protect our patients' right to safe, legal abortion."

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an abortion opponent and is likely to appeal Baker's decision, the Arkansas Times reported.

"Judge Baker's ruling allows Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Clinic to administer medication abortions without the necessary safety net available for women who experience emergencies and complications," Rutledge said in a statement. "Last year, the 8th Circuit [Court of Appeals] unanimously ruled that Judge Baker's original attempt to block this law was incorrect. This order is completely inconsistent with the 8th Circuit's decision and should not stand."

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