The ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in June 2017 challenging a new Arkansas restriction that would target reproductive health facilities with extreme and medically unnecessary overregulation and would effectively ban abortion care in Arkansas.
The federal lawsuit, brought on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services and Planned Parenthood Great Plains, challenges the constitutionality of targeted overregulation of reproductive health care facilities that provide abortion. The plaintiffs challenged Section 2 of Arkansas Act 383 for violating the constitutional rights of the clinics and their patients and impermissibly burdening access to abortion care in Arkansas. The Supreme Court reaffirmed these constitutional rights last year in the landmark decision Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.
The law will impose all these burdens without advancing any benefit to women’s health. The challenged provision would require the Arkansas Department of Health to suspend or revoke the licenses of abortion clinics for any minor infraction, no matter how tiny, and regardless of whether the infraction poses any risk to patients’ health or safety. No other licensed medical providers in Arkansas are subject to such extreme and mandatory penalties.
There is absolutely no support for the claim that the new suspension and revocation mandate protects patient safety or health, nor is there any legitimate health or safety rationale for imposing this mandatory penalty only on abortion providers and their patients. As reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Whole Woman's Health, abortion is an exceedingly safe procedure with complication rates that are far lower than the complication rates of other medical procedures.
Rather than advance women’s health, the law will threaten patient safety and health if it results in the mandatory shut down of one, or all, of the state’s abortion clinics. Arkansas’s mandatory suspension and revocation provision will impose delays on abortion care and, in some cases, will prevent women from obtaining an abortion at all. If any one of the health centers can no longer provide abortion, women will be forced to travel long distances to seek abortion care at another remaining facility — if one remains open. Women will need to arrange the necessary funds, transportation, and childcare or time off work required to travel these distances and make one or more separate trips. The new Arkansas restriction will have an especially harsh effect on low-income women and women with limited access to transportation.