The Supreme Court Just Dealt a Blow to Planned Parenthood in Arkansas. Here’s What It Means

May 29, 2018, 8:26 PM UTC
The Planned Parenthood logo is pictured outside a clinic in Boston
The Planned Parenthood logo is pictured outside a clinic in Boston, Massachusetts, June 27, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to anti-abortion activists on Thursday by making it harder for states to enact laws aimed at helping patients entering abortion clinics to avoid protesters, striking down a Massachusetts statute that had created a no-entry zone. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW HEALTH SOCIETY BUSINESS LOGO) - RTR3W38C
Photograph by Dominick Reuter — Reuters

The Supreme Court on Tuesday delivered, at least temporarily, a setback to abortion rights advocates and Planned Parenthood by clearing the way for an Arkansas law that makes it effectively impossible to access medication-induced abortions. The decision will shutter two of the state’s three Planned Parenthood clinics in the short-term, though the organization plans to “swiftly” challenge the law again in federal court.

“Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion,” said Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens in a statement. “This dangerous law also immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but one health center in the state.”

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Arkansas’s 2015 law puts significant restrictions on clinics that provide pill-induced abortion services, which involve combining mifepristone and misoprostol early on in pregnancy. Clinics that perform medication abortions would have to contract with a doctor who has admitting privileges at a hospital under the statute — a regulatory hurdle that just one of the facilities can clear.

Supporters claim the provision is meant to protect women’s health. But Planned Parenthood asserts that the Arkansas law places an undue burden on women attempting to access a more convenient and less invasive form of abortion, and will force many to drive hundreds of miles to get to a clinic at all.

The Supreme Court’s action isn’t necessary a ruling against Planned Parenthood over the long term, as the Justices didn’t officially rule on whether or not the Arkansas statute is legal.

So it’s unclear whether the law will stand permanently; it may wind up in front of the Supreme Court again if Planned Parenthood can successfully take further legal action at the lower court levels, as it says it will. Arkansas, however, isn’t the only state to test the boundaries of abortion rights in recent years, and Planned Parenthood has been a consistent target of funding cuts by the Trump administration.

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