Court suspends Arkansas law, giving women 2-week period to have medical abortions

PHOTO: The outside of the Little Rock Family Planning abortion clinic is seen Sept. 27, 2005, in Little Rock, Ark.PlayMike Wintroath/AP, FILE
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Women seeking medical abortions in Arkansas will have two weeks to access them after a court temporarily suspended a state-wide ban.

Medical abortions -- those that use pills rather than surgery to end a pregnancy -- were banned in Arkansas after the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's decision in late May.

That meant that of the state's three abortion clinics, only one has been able to continue providing abortions because it performs surgical abortions.

PHOTO: Planned Parenthood clinic in Little Rock Arkansas is seen in this undated Google Maps image. Google Maps
Planned Parenthood clinic in Little Rock Arkansas is seen in this undated Google Maps image.

On Monday evening, a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order, allowing clinics to offer medical abortions for two weeks before the ban goes back into effect.

The 100-page decision stated that "the Court finds that the threat of irreparable harm to [Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma] and Dr. [Stephanie] Ho, and the public interest, outweighs the immediate interests and potential injuries to the state," citing the doctor at one of the Planned Parenthood clinics whose patients have been impacted. Ho is a medical abortion provider at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fayetteville.

"As a physician, I appreciate that the court has taken a stand to protect the rights of my patients and block this unnecessary, targeted law," Ho told ABC News in a statement.

"The patients I see don’t take their rights for granted — even for a minute. This case has real impacts for real women. We won’t have to turn away patients from our health centers this week because of the court’s intervention — and I couldn’t be more proud to provide my patients with a full range of high-quality sexual and reproductive care," she added.

The temporary restraining order expires on July 2 and does not reverse the ban.

A spokesperson from Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which oversees Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, told ABC News that nurse practitioners and abortion providers are canceling their planned vacations to make sure that they are available during the 14-day period.

Brandon Hill, the president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, released a statement saying the "ruling is a victory for the women of Arkansas."

"For more than two weeks, our patients had to live with uncertainty, enduring the cancellation of appointments and a lack of options. The court’s decision offers relief to our patients, at least for now. We will continue to do everything we can to protect our patients’ right to safe, legal abortion," he said.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement saying she was "disappointed" in the decision.

"Judge Baker’s ruling allows Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Clinic to administer medication abortions without the necessary safety net available for women who experience emergencies and complications," Rutledge said. "Last year, the 8th Circuit unanimously ruled that Judge Baker’s original attempt to block this law was incorrect. This order is completely inconsistent with the 8th Circuit’s decision and should not stand."

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