A federal judge said he will issue an order determining the constitutionality of a law designed to shut down abortion clinics once they violate Health Department regulations, in a Thursday hearing.
Act 383 — which has been in effect since Aug. 1 — takes away the licenses of abortion clinics that fall short upon inspection. Anything from unsafe health standards to incomplete phone books or disheveled furniture that do not meet Health Department standards constitutes a violation. The law applies to abortion clinics only rather than all state-regulated health clinics, which are given time to remedy their shortcomings upon failed inspection, according to Arkansas Online.
The court order examining the current law comes after Planned Parenthood filed a June 20 lawsuit claiming that the law is unconstitutional because it violates the 14th amendment equal protection clause. Act 383 “is no way tied to violations that pose a threat to patient safety or health,” attorney Jennifer Keighley of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America argued Thursday before U.S. District Judge Moody.
The law was passed to protect women’s health and safety, said Assistant Attorney General Monty Baugh. Abortion clinics “pose a unique risk of serious complications,” he added, noting that ruptured uteri, major blood loss, and infection can occur, requiring immediate and precise care. If clinics are not up to snuff, women receiving abortions could undergo further harm.
The law “will do nothing to advance the state’s purported interest in women’s health,” Keighley said, disagreeing with Baugh. “There is no rational basis for this singling out” of abortion clinics, she added.
Abortion clinics need specific regulations because they “operate in relative secrecy, compared to others,” Baugh told Moody in Thursday’s hearing. Because many Planned Parenthood abortion clinics have privacy fences surrounding their walls, they should held to a different set of standards Baugh contended.
The state filed a response to Planned Parenthood’s suit, explaining that the law was meant to keep women from going to unsafe abortion facilities, but Arkansas has neither moved to dismiss the lawsuit nor stated if the judge should uphold the law.
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