Federal judge halts Arkansas law restricting use of abortion pill

Federal judge halts Arkansas law restricting use of abortion pill

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [order, PDF] on Monday blocking Arkansas from enforcing its abortion pill restrictions. Arkansas passed Act 577 [text, PDF] in March 2015, requiring abortion pill providers to follow US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] guidelines and prescribing physicians to maintain a contract with another physician with hospital admittance privileges to handle complications. Judge Kristine Baker has halted enforcement of the law until she has decided the case brought by the local branch of Planned Parenthood, stating that the harm to Planned Parenthood and its patients outweighs the state interests advanced by this law. One significant harm identified would be the further restriction of access to legal abortion, as only one clinic in the state would meet the criteria. Additionally, the court stated that it “may not factor into its analysis that neighboring states provide opportunities across state lines for Arkansas residents to obtain an abortion.” Baker previously issued a temporary restraining order to this law, set to go into effect January 1, which had been set to expire Monday.

Abortion procedures and reproductive rights issues [JURIST backgrounder] have been controversial topics throughout the US. Last week the West Virginia lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto to enact a new law [JURIST report] that prevents the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure, widely held to be the safest second-trimester abortion method. Also last week the South Dakota governor signed a bill [JURIST report] that bans abortions after 20 weeks. Last month the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed [JURIST report] a lower court decision upholding a law that restricts use of medication abortion drugs. In November the US Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] to decide whether a Texas law, which requires that clinics have similar facilities to surgical center, posed an undue burden on the availability of abortion on the state. Oral arguments were heard earlier this month.