Planned Parenthood take fight for abortion access to US Supreme Court

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Jacquelyn Martin, AP.

Little Rock – Today, Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) announced it is petitioning the Supreme Court of the United States to review and correct the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to vacate a preliminary injunction that blocked a medically unnecessary abortion restriction in Arkansas.

If this dangerous law is enforced, according to PPGP, it would make Arkansas the first and only state to effectively ban medication abortion entirely. It would also end access to abortion at all health centers except for one in the entire state.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court found in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that a nearly identical Texas law was medically unnecessary and unconstitutional. The impact in Arkansas would be even more severe — ending access to abortion at two-thirds of providers and essentially banning medication abortion.

Act 577 requires physicians who provide medication abortion to contract with a second physician who holds hospital-admitting privileges. PPGP says that does nothing to increase patient health and safety and actually makes it more difficult to obtain a safe abortion.

The Arkansas legislature has made many attempts to limit abortion in the state. Visit:
Trump win buoys push for new abortion limits in Arkansas
US Supreme Court rejects Arkansas bid to revive abortion law
Federal appeals court rejects Arkansas' 12-week abortion ban

Today’s filing does not immediately affect access to medication abortion services at Planned Parenthood, which continues to offer medication abortion at its health centers in Little Rock and Fayetteville.

“The Supreme Court already looked at a nearly identical Texas restriction and found it to be unconstitutional," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The impact would be even more severe in Arkansas, making it the first and only state to effectively ban medication abortion.

“This law is yet another attempt by politicians to control women’s bodies and quietly ban abortion. Individual rights and freedoms go to the heart of who we are as a country, including the right to decide if and when to become a parent.”

“Act 577 is yet another ideological ploy to make safe, legal abortion inaccessible in the state of Arkansas," said Aaron Samulcek, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

"With a laundry list of medically unnecessary restrictions already enforced, it’s hard enough for Arkansans to access safe abortion services without the added burden that Act 577 creates by eliminating all but one provider in the state. PPGP is taking this fight to the Supreme Court to ensure that access to sexual and reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion is more than a right in name only."

Dr. Stephanie Ho, PPGP physician, and plaintiff in the case said, “Laws like Act 577 in Arkansas have no basis in the standard of care. Just like for every other medical professional, my job is to do what is right for my patients, and my patients already face nearly insurmountable odds to access safe, legal abortion as it is. Act 577 would only create more harm to the health and well-being of Arkansans needing access to sexual and reproductive health care."

Because of an existing 48-hour forced delay, women in the Fayetteville area would be forced to make a 380-mile round-trip twice to access an abortion in Little Rock (traveling more than 760 miles for at least 10 hours). This is hardest on people who already face barriers to care such as people of color, young people, and those with low incomes. For those earning low incomes and working jobs that don’t offer vacation or sick time, taking multiple days off from work and paying for travel to Little Rock is not an option.

Politicians in Arkansas have passed 29 restrictions on safe, legal abortion since 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Ninety-seven percent of Arkansas counties have no clinics that provide abortions, and 77 percent of Arkansas women live in those counties. This law would make it impossible for many to get the care they need.

Copyright The Gayly – December 21, 2017 @ 5 p.m. CST.