Law School Case Brief
Planned Parenthood Ark. & E. Okla. v. Jegley - No. 4:15-cv-00784-KGB, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 110358 (E.D. Ark. July 2, 2018)
Facial challenges to statutes affecting abortions may succeed only if a plaintiff can show that in a large fraction of the cases in which the law is relevant, it will operate as a substantial obstacle to a woman's choice to undergo an abortion. In order to sustain a facial challenge and grant a preliminary injunction, a district court is required to make a finding that a contract-physician requirement is an undue burden for a large fraction of women seeking medication abortions in Arkansas; the question is whether the contract-physician requirement's benefits are substantially outweighed by the burdens it imposes.
In 2015, Arkansas enacted the Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act, 2015 Arkansas Acts 577. The U.S. legislature justified the enactment of the said law in its findings that abortion-inducing drugs were associated with an increased risk of complications relative to surgical abortion, and that the said risk of complications was directly proportional with gestational age. Anchored on medical evidence, the legislature asserted that women who use abortion-inducing drugs incur more complications than those who have surgical abortions. In addressing the aforementioned risks associated with the intake of abortion-inducing drugs, Section 1504(d) of the Arkansas Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act, required medication abortion providers to have a signed contract with a physician who agrees to handle complications; the contracted physician shall have active admitting privileges and gynecological/surgical privileges at a hospital designated to handle any emergencies associated with the use or ingestion of the abortion-inducing drug Ark. Code Ann. § 20-16-1504(d) (2015). The Act also mandated that every medication abortion patient receive the name and phone number for the contracted physician and the hospital at which that physician maintains admitting privileges and which can handle any emergencies. The Act also provided that any Abortion Facility found to violate any of the provisions of the Act may have its license denied, suspended or revoked by the Arkansas Department of Health. Thereafter, plaintiffs Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, d/b/a Planned Parenthood of the Heartland ("PPAEO"), and Stephanie Ho, M.D., on behalf of themselves and their patients, filed an action which sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to challenge Section 1504(d) of the Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act, 2015 Arkansas Acts 577.
Are the plaintiffs entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief against the enforcement of Section 1504(d) of the Arkansas Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act?
The Court held that an abortion clinic and its medical director were entitled to a Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 preliminary injunction against enforcement of the contracted physician requirement of § 1504(d) of the Arkansas Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act, Ark. Code Ann. § 20-16-1504(d) (2015), because they were likely to prevail on their Due Process challenge as § 1504(d) placed a substantial obstacle to a woman's choice to terminate a pregnancy before viability in a large fraction of the cases in which it was relevant. The Court further ruled that Section 1504(d) caused ongoing and imminent irreparable harm to the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and their patients as it would force the clinics to cease providing medication abortions, and require women in parts of the state to make two long round- trips for a surgical abortion, and this irreparable harm was greater than the potential harm to the state. Thus, the plaintiffs’ motion was granted.
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