LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ only surgical abortion clinic on Friday challenged a state rule requiring coronavirus tests before elective surgeries, saying it’s preventing women from having the procedure.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which represents Little Rock Family Planning Services, asked a federal judge to prevent the state from enforcing the requirement on three women nearing the state’s limit on when abortions can be performed.
Arkansas bans abortions 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.
The clinic had been prohibited from performing abortions under a rule that banned elective procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. That ban has been eased, but the state requires a negative coronavirus test within 48 hours of the procedure.
According to the lawsuit, the clinic has contacted more than 15 testing locations but has been unable to find that will test asymptomatic people and able to have results within 48 hours. The ACLU said one of the three patients was recently tested twice but did not get her results within 48 hours of her procedure.
“The directive’s rapid-testing requirement not only is a substantial barrier to pre-viability abortion care in itself, but also compounds pre-existing barriers to such care in Arkansas,” the lawsuit said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday defended the requirement.
“This requirement is consistent with that public health emergency and applies across the board to all elective procedures,” Hutchinson said.
Other states had used similar bans on elective procedures to restrict abortions during the pandemic. A judge last month had blocked the state’s order that Little Rock Family Planning Services stop performing surgical abortions, but a federal appeals court lifted that decision.