Planned Parenthood says it’s complying with restriction

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Planned Parenthood said Monday it’s now complying with an Arkansas law that was put on hold requiring doctors providing abortion pills to contract with a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the state of Arkansas asked a federal appeals court to lift a judge’s ruling that had prevented the state from enforcing the abortion pill restriction. A federal judge in July had issued a preliminary injunction but ordered Planned Parenthood to continue trying to find a contracting physician.

Monday’s joint filing said Planned Parenthood found a physician willing to contract with it.

“(Planned Parenthood is) therefore currently in compliance with the contracted physician requirement, and the parties move to vacate the preliminary injunction as moot and dismiss the appeal,” the filing said.

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Planned Parenthood had argued Arkansas’ restriction would have made the state the first in the nation to effectively ban abortion pills. Arkansas had argued the law was needed to protect women from any complications from the abortion pills. But Planned Parenthood argued that such complications are rare, and that those complications can be handled by hospitals without contacting the group’s physicians.

“The removal of the preliminary injunction will allow Arkansas law to take effect, ensuring that women have access to reliable emergency health care following complications associated with medication abortions,” Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in a statement. “After challenging this requirement for three years and claiming it could not comply, Planned Parenthood has finally agreed to follow this common-sense law.”

Planned Parenthood had previously been unable to find any Arkansas obstetricians willing to handle hospital admissions, and said many doctors cited a fear of being harassed over an association with an abortion provider, objections from employers or a personal opposition to abortion.

Planned Parenthood administers pills to end pregnancies at its clinics in Fayetteville and Little Rock, but does not perform surgical abortions. Bettina Brownstein, an attorney for Planned Parenthood, said the physician is also contracting with a third facility in Little Rock not affiliated with the organization that administers the pills and also performs surgical abortions.

Brownstein said finding a physician doesn’t alleviate the concerns Planned Parenthood raised about the restriction, which was approved by state’s Republican legislature and governor in 2015.

“After three years of searching, we were finally able to comply with this medically unnecessary requirement,” Brandon J. Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a statement. “Although we believe this restriction does nothing to protect the health of Arkansans, we remain devoted to providing comprehensive reproductive health care to our patients, including safe, legal abortion no matter what.”

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