Planned Parenthood yesterday renewed its request for a temporary restraining order on enforcement of the state law that effectively ended the availability of medication abortions in Arkansas, alone among the 50 states.

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday declined for now to take up the argument that the law runs afoul of precedent in a Texas case that seemed to directly apply. The Arkansas law requires a clinic to have a contract with a doctor with hospital admitting privileges to be able to provide a two-pill regimen that causes a miscarriage in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The procedure is safer than childbirth with rare complications and the second pill is taken at home, when a medical professional isn’t present.


The Supreme Court declined to set aside an 8th Circuit ruling that lifted Judge Kristine Baker’s earlier restraining order. The 8th Circuit said the case needed to be further developed to show with more precision how many women would be affected by stopping medication abortion at Planned Parenthood clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville and at another abortion provider in Little Rock.

In its brief yesterday, Planned Parenthood said:


The evidence in the record, as well as the additional, new declarations filed with this motion, demonstrate that due to the elimination of abortion in Fayetteville, in the absence of emergency relief, the contracted physician requirement will prevent 25% of women [235 the brief said in another passage] seeking medication abortion in Arkansas from having an abortion. Considering only Fayetteville patients, that number rises to 36%—or more than one in three patients—being prevented from exercising their constitutional right to choose, due to a requirement this Court already recognized has little to no medical benefit. The remaining Fayetteville patients will be forced to travel hundreds of miles to obtain a surgical abortion in Little Rock, facing increased costs and delays that come with no medical benefit. And 100% of women seeking medication abortion in the state will be denied the option of a safe, early abortion method and be forced to have surgical procedures instead. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the contracted physician requirement imposes an undue burden on a large fraction of relevant women and that Plaintiffs are entitled to a temporary restraining order. 

Here’s the full brief.

As yet, no hearing has been set.


More than 500 women received medication abortions in the last year for which data is available. Doctors are unwilling to serve as a contact for complications, Planned Parenthood said, because “physicians who provide abortions or associate with physicians who provide abortions risk being ostracized from their communities and face harassment and violence toward themselves, their family, and their private practices.”

The brief argues that the law will particularly burden poorer women and burdens most women because they are being denied their preferred medical option. These women will be irreparably injured if the law is not suspended. Already, Planned Parenthood has said, women have been turned away.

UPDATE: Supporters of Planned Parenthood plan a rally this afternoon to show support for the organization. They’ll gather at 5:30 p.m. at the Little Rock center.

Also: here are statements issued on the ruling.