Arkansas Judge Again Blocks Abortion Billing Rule

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A judge has once again temporarily stopped Arkansas regulators from enforcing billing restrictions on three abortion-providing clinics.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox issued the ruling Thursday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The decision blocks the enforcement of a 2015 law that bars clinics from charging a patient seeking an abortion for related services during the 48-hour wait period before the procedure.

The restriction is meant to “ensure no woman feels obligated to have an abortion even if she determines abortion may not be the best choice for her,” said Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum, who sponsored the legislation.

Fox first halted the billing restriction in January, citing concerns that it violates the state and federal constitutions.

Lawyers for the state Attorney General then requested that a federal court take on the case. But U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson on March 13 ruled that he didn’t have jurisdiction and sent the case back to Fox.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for April 8.

Concerns about the law arose after the state Board of Health in October upheld the state Department of Health’s 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.

The Board of Health’s decision to side with the state Department of Health caused board member Robbie Thomas-Knight to resign, citing concerns that the move was a conflict of interest.

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