An appeals court panel lifted an order Friday blocking restrictions on how the abortion pill is administered in Arkansas, saying a judge didn't estimate how many women would be burdened by the law's requirements.
A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis vacated U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker's preliminary injunction against the 2015 law. The measure requires doctors providing the pill to maintain a contract with another physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.
The panel sent the case back to 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 court correctly held that individuals for whom the contract-physician requirement was an actual, rather than an irrelevant, restriction were women seeking medication abortions in Arkansas. Nonetheless, it did not define or estimate the number of women who would be unduly burdened by the contract-physician requirement," the 8th Circuit panel wrote. "Instead, it focused on amorphous groups of women to reach its conclusion that the Act was facially unconstitutional."
Planned Parenthood has said it will no longer be able to offer the abortion pill at its Little Rock and Fayetteville health centers if the law takes effect; it does not offer surgical abortions at those clinics. The other abortion provider in the state would be able to offer only surgical abortions.
The Arkansas attorney general's office and Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which had sued over the restrictions, said they were reviewing the ruling and did not have an immediate comment.
The decision came as Baker is weighing whether to block four new Arkansas abortion laws, three of which are set to take effect next week. The laws being challenged include a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure and part of a measure prohibiting doctors from performing abortions based solely on whether the mother wants a boy or a girl.
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