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Arkansas could see spike in abortion patients following Oklahoma law

After bans in Oklahoma and Texas, Arkansas could see a rise in abortion patients but its strict laws may limit the increase.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas abortion providers are expecting a surge of procedures this summer of people coming from outside the state.

After Texas, Oklahoma became Arkansas's second neighboring state to approve strict limits on abortion.

Emily Wales, the Interim President and CEO for Planned Parenthood Great Plains explained that "patients still need this care and they will seek ways to find it."

She added that even even as legislative barriers go up, patients will continue crossing state borders for abortion access. 

"We are expecting patients to continue meeting abortion care, but we know that they'll be pushed out," she said. "That will mean increased patients in Kansas, but also some in Arkansas."

Planned Parenthood also added that in terms of out-of-state patients Arkansas might not have as high of a surge as Kansas. That's because in Arkansas has a law that patients need to have two visits for an abortion procedure 72 hours apart and some patients may be unable to afford that long in a hotel.

But abortion patients have been coming to Arkansas for care even before the near bans in Texas and Oklahoma. In 2020, 12% of all abortion patients seen in the Natural State were from somewhere else.

And the Oklahoma bill isn't expected to go into effect until the summer, but Planned Parenthood said they are already seeing the need.

"Patients are already confused. Even today, when Oklahoma has legal accessible abortion, patients are confused because of what's been happening in Texas and what's happening in the news," Wales said.

But even as they prepare for increased abortion care, Wales emphasized the majority of other services patients lean on them for including, "contraception care, STI testing and treatment cancer screenings."

And even with preparation and new staff, Planned Parenthood Great Plains remains concerned for the future of abortion healthcare.

"This system will not only be strained, we really think it will break," Wales added.

Arkansas still allows abortions up until 20 weeks, but a proposed near total ban, (except when saving the mother's life) is still being challenged in court.