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Supreme Court Decision Leaves Arkansas Women With Only One Abortion Clinic in the State

The Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to a 2015 law that places restrictions on clinics that provide medication abortions

The Supreme Court upheld a 2015 Arkansas law that places obstacles in the way of women seeking abortion care and the health clinics that provide the legal procedure. (Photo: @ajplus/Twitter)

A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday will allow a law banning medical abortion in Arkansas to stand—a decision that forced Planned Parenthood to suspend its services and leaves just one abortion clinic in the entire state.

"Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion," Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood's executive vice president, said in a statement. "This dangerous law immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but one health center in the state."

The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a 2015 law that requires clinics that provide medication abortions to work with doctors who have admitting privileges at a hospital in the state.

Planned Parenthood, which provides only medication abortions in Arkansas, says it has been unable to find doctors who would enter into contracts with them, due to the risk doctors face of "being ostracized from their communities and [facing] harassment and violence toward themselves, their family, and their private practices," according to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, who blocked the law in 2016.

An appeals court reversed Baker's decision, sending the case to the Supreme Court.

Two Planned Parenthood health centers that provide only medication abortions will end their abortion care services for now, while the case is litigated in the lower courts. Little Rock Family Planning Services will be able to continue its surgical abortion care.

The anti-choice movement's efforts to impose new requirements on abortion providers are aimed at placing obstacles in front of women who seek legal abortion care, critics say—under the guise of keeping patients safe.

A 2012 Princeton University study found that less than one percent of women who obtained a medication abortion—in which the patient takes two pills to induce an abortion—experienced a serious complication.

Admitting privileges for doctors providing medication abortions are unnecessary, Baker wrote, as "emergency room physicians are well qualified to evaluate and treat most complications that can arise after a medication abortion" and those complications are "identical to those suffered by women experiencing miscarriage, who receive treatments in hospitals every day through emergency physicians."

A law in Texas requiring clinics to have admitting privileges was struck down in a 5-3 vote in 2016, with Justice Stephen Breyer saying the "undue burden on abortion access" it created violated the constitution.

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