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Lawsuit Filed to Block New Abortion Pill Limits in Arkansas

3 min read

LITTLE ROCK – Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge Monday to block Arkansas from enforcing a law taking effect this week that will impose new limits on the way the abortion pill is administered.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s lawsuit challenges the law requiring abortion pill providers to follow guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The law takes effect Friday and also requires doctors providing the pill to maintain a contract with another physician who has specific admitting privileges at a hospital.

Planned Parenthood says it would no longer be able to provide the abortion pill at its Fayetteville and Little Rock centers. The other abortion provider in the state, Little Rock Family Planning Services, also would no longer provide the pill if the law takes effect, the suit claims.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker scheduled a hearing for Wednesday afternoon.

“Due to this unnecessary law, women in Fayetteville will be forced to travel three hours each way to Little Rock to have a surgical abortion, and women statewide will lose access to a safe, early method of abortion using medications alone,” the group said in its complaint.

The lawsuit names Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley and Washington County Prosecutor Matt Durrett as defendants, since they would enforce the new law. Jegley and Durrett said they hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet and declined to comment. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office did not have an immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The law was among several new abortion restrictions passed by the Legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this year. Supporters of the abortion pill restrictions said they would protect women’s health by barring non-federally approved uses of the drug, a practice commonly referred to as off-label.

But Planned Parenthood and other opponents of the law said it overrules doctors’ judgment and forces them to follow an outdated protocol. The new law will require women take a higher dose of the medication than what is typically prescribed and restrict the time period for administering it from up to nine weeks to up to seven weeks.

In its complaint, Planned Parenthood said it has been unable to find physicians it can contract with who have the admitting privileges required under the act. The lawsuit said many physicians didn’t want to contract with Planned Parenthood because they were afraid of the stigma or harassment from being associated with an abortion provider, their employers or partners didn’t want to be associated with an abortion provider or they opposed abortion.

Planned Parenthood is challenging the law at the same time it’s fighting Hutchinson’s decision to block Medicaid funds to the group. A federal judge ordered Arkansas to pay Medicaid claims for three Planned Parenthood patients who are unidentified plaintiffs in the case. Planned Parenthood is seeking to expand the case to cover current and future Medicaid patients who seek treatment at its facilities.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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