Arkansas is on its way to becoming the seventh state with one abortion clinic, if a federal judge doesn’t block legislation dictating who can perform the procedure there.
Though Arkansas has passed 12 anti-abortion bills during this legislative session, three are being challenged in a lawsuit this week, CBS News reports. Of those three, Senate Bill 448 will have the biggest impact on abortion access, stipulating that “a person shall not perform or induce an abortion unless that person is a physician licensed to practice medicine in the state of Arkansas and is board certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.” That presents a major problem for Arkansas’ two remaining abortion clinics:
As of Monday, Arkansas only had two functioning abortion clinics, both in Little Rock: Planned Parenthood and Family Planning Services. If SB448 is allowed to be implemented, Family Planning Services, the only clinic the provides surgical abortions in the state, would be forced to close because the clinic’s one provider “isn’t OB/GYN board-eligible or certified,” said Elizabeth Nash, a senior states issue manager at Guttmacher. While Planned Parenthood has physicians who would meet the requirements of the new law, the clinic only provides medical abortions and can’t accommodate additional patients, according to Nash.
Under current law, a physician licensed to practice medicine in the state can perform abortions. But the additional qualification set to take effect Wednesday is similar to a law a federal judge upheld in Mississippi last year—a qualification opponents say needlessly prevents qualified physicians from performing the procedure. The state, of course, claims the qualification is in the interest of patient safety.
The other two bills currently being fought are the state’s “Cherish Act,” which bans abortions 18 weeks into pregnancy, and the “Down Syndrome Discrimination by Abortion Prohibition Act,” which makes it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion if a woman is seeking an abortion because fetal Down Syndrome was detected.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood Fayetteville was forced to close following “increasing problems with [its] landlord.” Despite searching for a new property, it was unable to find a new space.