A lawyer for the Planned Parenthood abortion business admitted to a judge Tuesday that it has struggled to find doctors willing to work with its Arkansas affiliate.
The abortion business is challenging a 2015 Arkansas law that requires abortion facilities to contract with a physician who has hospital admitting privileges for patient emergencies. Last year, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing the law; Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed.
“Act 577 was passed to help ensure that medication abortions are conducted in a safe, responsible manner and with appropriate protections for women,” attorney general spokesman Judd Deere said in 2016. “Attorney General Rutledge will fully defend this statute and is confident that the 8th Circuit [Court of Appeals] will eventually uphold this law.”
On Tuesday, attorneys from the state and Planned Parenthood argued their cases before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.
Here’s more from the report:
[Judge Raymond] Gruender fired questions at Maithreyi Ratakonda of New York, representing Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, about how diligently the health care provider tried to find Arkansas physicians with admitting privileges at a designated hospital to contract with Planned Parenthood to provide services in case of complications.
Act 577 of 2015 requires providers of medication abortions to contract with a physician with admitting privileges at a designated hospital to be available in case of emergencies. Planned Parenthood said it sent out letters to 225 physicians — every obstetrician and gynecologist in the state — in search of any who would be willing to contract with Planned Parenthood, but none responded positively. They said the doctors who explained their refusal noted that they can face severe professional and personal consequences for being associated with an abortion provider, even if they support abortion access.
Later, Judge Gruender said he understood how it could be difficult for the abortion group to find a doctor willing to volunteer.
In its appeal, the state’s lawyers argued that abortion drugs can result in serious complications, including incomplete abortions and the death of the woman. The state attorneys said Planned Parenthood sometimes refers patients who are experiencing complications to other abortion facilities or the emergency room, but it “cannot guarantee another provider will care for the patient.” They argued that the state law is necessary to protect patients.
It is unclear when the 8th Circuit panel will rule on the appeal.
Last March, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker blocked the law, saying it creates an undue burden on women’s access to abortion.
Baker wrote that the law could cause abortion clinics to close because they cannot find doctors with hospital admitting privileges who are willing contract with them, thus increasing travel distances and costs for women who want abortions. She wrote that the law also could either keep women from having abortions at all or cause them to pursue later-term abortions “that are both riskier and more expensive,” according to the report.
Initially, Planned Parenthood also challenged a second part of the law that required abortion facilities to follow specific FDA guidelines when administering abortion drugs. However, the Obama Administration changed the FDA guidelines last year, allowing the abortion drugs to be used later in pregnancy and in smaller doses. The move basically nullified that part of the Arkansas law.
The abortion drug known as RU-486, or mifepristone, has a high complication rate and can become deadly to the mother as well as her unborn child if complications are not treated. According to the FDA, at least 14 women have died and 2,207 women have been injured from chemical abortion drugs in America.