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Three-judge panel intently quizzes both sides in suit against Arkansas’s law regulating chemical abortions

by | Mar 9, 2017

PPFA insists not a single physician would agree to be a backup in case of complications

By Dave Andrusko

Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender [St. Louis Business Journal]

Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender
[St. Louis Business Journal]

A great deal has happened since NRL News Today last reported on Arkansas’ Act 577, also known as the “Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act.”

On New Year’s Eve, 2015, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, a reliable ally of pro-abortionists, granted a temporary restraining order on the law which was to take effect the next day. On March 14, 2016, she blocked the law from taking effect.

On Tuesday a three-judge panel– Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender of St. Louis, Chief Judge William Jay Riley of Omaha, Neb., and Senior U.S. District Judge James Gritzner of Des Moines– heard Arkansas’ Deputy Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni defend the law and Maithreyi Ratakonda (representing the Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma) attempt to explain how they could not find a single abortionists who had admitting privileges at a designated hospital who would agree to be available in case of emergencies.

Act 577 required abortionists to follow the FDA protocol then in existence in performing chemical abortions. The FDA re-wrote the requirements, which meant, as reporter Linda Satter observed, much of the questioning was about finding an abortionist willing to serve as a backup.

Satter’s story discussed the back-and-forth on the law’s burdens and benefits. Ratakonda argued, “The defendants suggest that Arkansas can constitutionally eliminate a safe, early form of abortion entirely, and shut down two of the three abortion providers in the state, all due to a requirement that provides no benefits.” (The only abortion clinic performing surgical abortions is in Little Rock.)

Bronni countered not so. Arkansas is a largely rural state, he said, “and that most women live within easy access to Little Rock, so, ‘any impact on abortion access in Arkansas would be marginal,’” Satter reported.” Moreover Act 577 does not outlaw chemical abortions. “They [the plaintiffs] simply have not shown that this will prevent women from having an abortion.”

According to Satter, Judge Guender bore in on the question of how hard PPFA tried to find a back-up abortionist with admitting privileges at a local hospital. PPFA said it sent letters to everyobstetrician and gynecologist in the state — 225 physicians–“in search of any who would be willing to contract with Planned Parenthood, but none responded positively.”

Here is Satter’s account of the Q&A:

Gruender questioned Ratakonda repeatedly about how Planned Parenthood sought contract physicians to allow them to comply with the law, asking, “Was there any financial offer?”

Ratakonda said there was “no specific financial offer, but Planned Parenthood made very clear why they needed a contracted physician.”

“Are those letters in the record?” Gruender asked, to which Ratakonda replied, “Yes.”

He asked at another point if Planned Parenthood really believed that if it offered extra compensation, no physicians would agree to contract with the clinic.

Ratakonda said it isn’t clear, but that many of the doctors who refused noted that their employers wouldn’t allow them to contract for Planned Parenthood.

“I could see why it would be difficult to get a doctor to volunteer,” Gruender said, emphasizing the last word.

When will the panel issue an opinion? “In due time.”

Categories: Judicial