LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal appeals court on Friday prevented Arkansas from enforcing restrictions on how the abortion pill is administered while Planned Parenthood asks the nation's highest court to review a ruling in favor of the law.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a request by Planned Parenthood Great Plains to not allow an earlier ruling in favor of the restrictions to take effect yet. The restrictions are part of a 2015 law that requires doctors who provide the abortion pill to maintain a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and agrees to handle any complications.
The organization said it planned to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The court did not elaborate on its reason for the stay in its one-page order.
"Act 577 would impose medically unnecessary and senseless restrictions on access to abortion, creating undue burdens for women in the state," Aaron Samulcek, interim president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said in a statement. "As we march forward to seek review in the U.S. Supreme Court, we stand by the countless Arkansans who will continue accessing expert, compassionate health care at our health centers in Fayetteville and Little Rock."
The three-judge panel of the appeals court in July lifted a preliminary injunction that a federal judge had issued against the law. The panel sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker and said the judge should look into the number of women who would be unduly burdened by the requirement and whether it amounts to a "large fraction" of women seeking the abortion pill in Arkansas. The appeals court said last month it would not reconsider the panel's decision.
Planned Parenthood has said it would no longer be able to offer the abortion pill at its Little Rock and Fayetteville health centers if the law takes effect. Surgical abortions are not performed at those centers.
The organization said a third facility - Little Rock Family Planning, which offers the abortion pill but is not run by Planned Parenthood - also would not be able to comply with the requirement under the law. That facility does offer surgical abortions.
Seven other states have similar restrictions requiring agreements with local hospitals, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a national research group that supports abortion rights. In Arkansas, the state has argued the restrictions are needed to protect women's health.
"It is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood continues to fight reasonable, common sense health and safety regulations to ensure that medication abortions are conducted in a safe manner," Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said in an email. "Attorney General Rutledge will continue to defend this law and urge the Supreme Court of the United States to reject certiorari."
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