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Supreme Court allows Arkansas abortion restrictions to stand

Tens of thousands of pro-life protesters walk past the front of the U.S. Supreme Court building during the 43rd annual March for Life Jan. 27, 2017, in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to hear Planned Parenthood's challenge to an Arkansas law banning medication-induced abortions. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to hear a case brought by Planned Parenthood that sought to challenge an Arkansas law restricting medication-induced abortions.

The law requires any medication abortion provider who “gives, sells, dispenses, administers, or otherwise provides or proscribes the abortion-inducing drug” to have a signed contract with a physician who has “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.”

The abortion providers themselves would not have to have admitting privileges, just an agreement with a physician who did and who could handle any complications that arose. The law was passed in 2015, and applies only to medication-induced abortions in the early stages of a pregnancy.

The Arkansas government called the law “a carefully targeted response to medication abortion's unique risks profile.” Planned Parenthood argued that the law puts an “undue burden” on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies.

This isn't the first legal challenge to this law

A federal judge in Little Rock had prevented the law from being enforced, arguing that it was too similar to a Texas law that the Supreme Court overturned in 2016. However, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this ruling and allowed the law to remain in effect until the Supreme Court could decide whether or not it would hear this case.

Lawyers representing the state argued that this law differed substantially from the Texas law, which required abortion providers to have admitting privileges in hospitals. They pointed out that “Arkansas law merely requires medication abortion providers to have a contractual relationship (to ensure follow-up treatment if needed) with a physician that has admitting privileges.”

What did Planned Parenthood say?

Planned Parenthood, which brought the case before the Supreme Court, called the law “shameful.” In a statement, Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said:

This dangerous law also immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but one health center in the state. If that's not an undue burden, what is? This law cannot and must not stand. We will not stop fighting for every person's right to access safe, legal abortion.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted his thoughts after the decision was announced: “The state of Arkansas has the right to hold abortion clinics to commonsense standards of safety, and I'm glad to see the Supreme Court unanimously reject this groundless lawsuit.”

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