Arkansas Judge Temporarily Blocks Abortion Billing Limits

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge has temporarily blocked Arkansas regulators from imposing billing restrictions on three abortion providers, citing concerns about the constitutionality of the billing law.

The 2015 law bars clinics from charging a patient seeking an abortion for related services during the 48-hour wait period before the procedure. In his preliminary finding released Tuesday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox said there is a “substantial probability” that the law is unconstitutional, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Fox noted he wasn’t aware of any other state-imposed restrictions related to medical billing. He said the enforcement block will be in place until the case goes to trial or a higher court intervenes.

Shortly after Fox’s ruling, lawyers for the state Attorney General requested that a federal court take on the case.

Concerns about the billing law arose after the state Board of Health in October upheld the state Department of Health’s March findings that Little Rock Family Planning Services and Planned Parenthood clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville violated the law.

The board didn’t impose fines, but clinic officials said the billing restrictions have caused them to lose thousands of dollars because many women don’t return after their initial visits and don’t pay for their bills. The clinics appealed the board’s decision, saying the law violates the state and federal constitutions and puts patients’ privacy at risk.

Fox said he’s still reviewing the full appeal and is waiting for more information before making a decision. Fox also rejected the state’s argument that sovereign immunity bars the clinics from challenging the billing law. Fox said a state Supreme Court ruling in December noted that appeals of state agency decisions generally don’t have immunity protections.

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