In addition to a lawsuit awaiting review by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, four other suits challenging Arkansas abortion laws are winding their way through the courts.
The other pending cases and their current statuses are as follows:
• Planned Parenthood v. Cindy Gillespie, Director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, case No. 4:15cv566.
Known as the Medicaid funding case, it led U.S. Circuit Judge Kristine Baker in 2016 to impose injunctions preventing the state from cutting off the funds for Planned Parenthood services. Medicaid already didn’t cover abortion, so the services that Medicaid will no longer cover, under the 2015 directive, are family planning and preventive health care services such as cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted illnesses, and birth control.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit later voided Baker’s injunctions — first affecting only the three anonymous women who sued and later being applied to all Medicaid patients in Arkansas who use the services — without addressing the merits of the case. The appellate court said it couldn’t go further after deciding that the three anonymous women who sued didn’t have a constitutional right to pursue a private right of action.
While the issue of whether the women are entitled to pursue a private right of action has been decided — at least for now — in the seven states in the jurisdiction of the 8th Circuit, attorneys for Planned Parenthood have cited alternate rulings by several of the nation’s other circuit courts in an effort to keep the issue alive before Baker, who they say may still consider the core issues in the case.
Those issues are whether the Medicaid funding cutoff violated the federal Medicaid Act or the women’s due process and equal protection laws.
Late last month, Baker lifted a short stay that, at the state’s request, kept attorneys from starting the time-consuming process of gathering information to defend or attack the constitutional claims.
Baker said she will eventually set separate hearing dates on each argument, with one hearing focusing on whether the defunding violated the federal Medicaid Act and the other on whether it violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.
Meanwhile, she hasn’t yet decided the state’s request that she decertify the class.
After the 8th Circuit refused to revisit the panel’s Aug. 16 ruling invalidating the injunctions, Planned Parenthood cut off services in January to Medicaid patients. It operates one clinic each in Little Rock and Fayetteville.
• Planned Parenthood v. Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley and the state Medical Board, case No. 4:15cv784.
This case challenges the constitutionality of Act 577 of 2015, which required physicians performing abortions in Arkansas to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, which abortion providers saw as a way to effectively stop them from providing abortions.
Baker issued an injunction in March 2016 blocking enforcement of the law, and the state appealed, leading the 8th Circuit to lift the injunction. However, the law still isn’t being enforced because the 8th Circuit agreed to stay its ruling to allow Planned Parenthood to petition the U.S. Supreme Court, citing conflicting rulings in other circuits across the country.
The Supreme Court hasn’t yet decided whether it will hear the appeal.
• Planned Parenthood & Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Nathaniel Smith, director of the state Department of Health, case no. 4:17cv40.
This case challenges Section 2 of Act 383 of 2017, which was changed in the 2017 legislative session to require mandatory license suspensions of abortion clinics — but no other types of health clinics — if health inspectors find any violation during routine or surprise inspections, regardless of whether the violation concerns patient health or safety.
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr., who heard arguments Aug. 10 on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop its enforcement. Attorneys have submitted written briefs to bolster the arguments they made in the hearing, and they are awaiting a ruling.
Meanwhile, directors of the clinics said in December that surprise inspections occurred in December and minor infractions were found, leading them to fear the state would shut the clinics down. The state hasn’t done so, and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office has argued that the lack of action demonstrates that the clinics’ concerns are overblown.
The clinics also say the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of U.S. Constitution by singling out abortion clinics.
• Planned Parenthood v. Gillespie, case No. 18-591-1 in Washington County Circuit Court.
This case was filed March 2 and is Planned Parenthood’s appeal of the administrative decision that resulted in Medicaid funds being discontinued.
The state Department of Human Services sought to terminate Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider after the governor cited widely distributed, secretly recorded videos, later discredited, that claimed to show unethical behavior at Planned Parenthood affiliates in other states. In the federal case, attorneys for the state argued that Planned Parenthood had to pursue an administrative remedy first.
The lawsuit says Planned Parenthood has 56 affiliates that provide medical services across the country and “each is an independent corporation with its own independent board, CEO [chief executive officer], finances, operations, and decision-making.”
The affiliates must adhere to medical and other standards promulgated by Planned Parenthood’s national office, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, to operate under the name, it says.
It argues that the Planned Parenthood clinics in Arkansas “have never participated in fetal tissue donation,” as the videos alleged of other affiliates, and that the Arkansas clinics were unfairly targeted by the governor.
Metro on 04/08/2018