SCOTUS Allows Arkansas To Enforce Abortion Restrictions

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on May 29th, 2018

Washington, D.C., USA: The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday paved the way for restrictions on medication-induced abortions to take effect in Arkansas that could lead to the shuttering of two of the state’s three abortion clinics.

Critics of a challenged state law say it could effectively end medication abortions in the state.The law says doctors who provide pills must hold a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who would agree to handle complications. The law is similar to a provision in Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016.

The nine justices, with no noted dissents, declined to hear an appeal by abortion provider Planned Parenthood of a lower court ruling that had revived the Arkansas state law, which sets regulations regarding the RU-486 “abortion pill,” after it was earlier struck down by a federal judge. The law had remained blocked pending the outcome of the appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court sent it and was sent back down to a lower court. Planned Parenthood brought the case and can still appeal to a federal judge to block the law. The law was initially blocked by a federal district court judge in Arkansas, but a three-judge panel at the court of appeals in St. Louis vacated the decision.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has to make the law binding before it goes into effect.

If the ban permanently goes into effect, it would likely shutter two of the state’s three facilities that perform abortions and would make surgical abortion the only option for women in the state.

The Supreme Court in 1973 legalized abortion nationwide, but many Republican-governed states have passed laws seeking to impose a variety of restrictions, some so demanding that they may shut down abortion clinics and make the procedure far more difficult to obtain.

The justices, in a 2016 ruling, struck down a restrictive Republican-backed Texas law that had targeted abortion clinics and doctors in a decision that was seen as reaffirming and fortifying legal protections for abortion rights. Planned Parenthood had claimed the appeals court ruling in the Arkansas case had disregarded the precedent set in the Texas case. #SCOTUS #Abortion

Arkansas has a long history with trying to institute restrictive abortion laws dating back to fights in the 1990s. Recently, it tried to institute a 12-week abortion ban, which would have been the strictest law in the country.

In 2013, Arkansas approved a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation, as both houses of the state’s legislature voted to override a veto by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe. The Republican-backed Human Heartbeat Protection Act would have become the nation’s most restrictive law. The bill would require anyone who provides abortions in Arkansas to “perform an abdominal ultrasound test necessary to detect a heartbeat of an unborn human individual according to standard medical practice.” If a heartbeat is detected and the pregnancy is at 12 weeks or greater, an abortion would be forbidden. Exceptions are provided for cases of medical emergency, r***, and other situations.

A federal appeals court, made up of a three-judge panel all appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, blocked that Arkansas 2013 effort.

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