Federal Judge Kristine Baker today denied the state’s attempt to lift her preliminary order stopping enforcement of a state law aimed at putting medicine abortion providers out of business.

The order will stay in effect — and thus the law won’t be in force — while the appeal of the case continues.


She enjoined enforcement of the law temporarily on July 2. The requires abortion providers that use a pill regimen in the first weeks of pregnancy to have an agreement with a doctor with admitting privileges in the event of emergencies. The clinics have emergency protocols, but no doctor — fearing reprisal from anti-abortion groups — has been willing to enter such an agreement. That meant end of Planned Parenthood abortion pill dispensation in Fayetteville and Little Rock and end of medication abortions at the sole remaining clinical abortion provider in Little Rock.

The state wanted the law to be in effect pending further proceedings. It has an involved history. Baker had enjoined the law as an unconstitutional burden on women, in keeping with cases in other states.  But the state won a ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Baker hadn’t provided sufficient statistical support for her conclusion that a significant number of women would be unduly burdened. The appeals court lifted her stay, which closed the clinics for abortions, pending more hearings. Planned Parenthood came back with more evidence on the number of women affected and the judge again held the law was unconstitutional and should be stayed.


The judge said today that the state — named defendants are prosecutors in Washington and Pulaski counties who’d enforce the law — had not met a burden to put the law back in effect. That is, it failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits, that the state would be irreparably harmed, that putting the law in effect wouldn’t harm the plaintiffs and that the public interest would be served.

Among others, the judge disputed the state’s contention that the law was in the interest of the health of women, saying “the Court agreed with the findings of multiple federal courts, based upon overwhelming record evidence, that medication abortions are safe.” She reiterated the law put an unacceptable burden on women.


She said the state couldn’t be harmed by the inability to enforce a “facially unconstitutional” statute, but women facing obstacles to medical services would face “an imminent and irreparable threat of harm.”

Here’s her opinion.