Abruptly and without warning, the state ordered Little Rock Family Planning Services, the only healthcare provider that provides surgical abortions in Arkansas, to immediately stop such procedures, unless necessary to save the life of the mother. A copy of the “Cease and Desist” letter is below.

Arkansas Health Department representatives walked into the clinic Friday morning and handed the letter to the clinic manager. Unfortunately, many women were already there, some already medicated, having traveled many miles to get there. For some, it was their second time at the clinic, since Arkansas requires two visits 72 hours apart before any woman can exercise her reproductive choice. 

These women were left stranded by the state, which gave no guidance as to what they were to do. They had to be turned away. One was a woman 17 weeks pregnant who sobbed, “I can’t have this baby.” Where will she go?  What will she do? Her constitutional right to choose not to give birth that’s been her right since Roe v. Wade in 1973 is being taken away, taken away by a governor bowing to pressure from ideological extremists like Attorney General Rutledge and others who are using the excuse of the pandemic to do so. It is shameful. 

One was a woman 17 weeks pregnant who sobbed, “I can’t have this baby.” Where will she go?  What will she do?

Instead of allowing the doctor to use her own judgment as to what is “elective” or not during this pandemic, Arkansas has decreed that all surgical abortions, unless to save the health (meaning irreversible injury to a major bodily function or organ) or life of the mother, are elective. That is not a healthcare decision, that is a political one.

Texas and Tennessee also have shut down virtually all access to abortion, thus making it impossible for Arkansas women to get help in these neighboring states. These states, including Arkansas, ignore that abortion is time-sensitive.

The woman at 17 weeks couldn’t go to Texas or Tennessee, and she was too far along to go to Shreveport’s clinic. She was advised that she’d have to travel to Granite City, Illinois—over 300 miles away.   

The ACLU of Arkansas is prepared to take legal action, but courts cannot be relied upon anymore to protect women’s rights. It’s up to us if we want to keep these rights. I call on you to contact the governor and your state representatives now. Tell them to demand that Little Rock Family Planning be allowed to care for their patients. Tell them to allow all surgical abortions now.

Here’s some language you can use when calling or emailing:
I’m calling/ writing to demand that Little Rock Family Family Planning Services be allowed to perform surgical abortions, which is the only type of abortion available to many women. Arkansas is denying women their constitutional right to choose not to give birth. By restricting their ability to exercise that right, you are taking away women’s personal freedom to make choices about their health and their bodies. 

Courts cannot be relied upon anymore to protect women’s rights. It’s up to us if we want to keep these rights. I call on you to contact the governor and your state representatives now.