ACLU: Arkansas test mandate could still restrict abortions


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A group representing Arkansas’ only surgical abortion clinic said Friday the state’s move to resume elective surgeries could still effectively ban the procedure because of a lack of widespread coronavirus testing.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas did not say whether Little Rock Family Planning Services would be able to resume surgical abortions Monday, when the state is easing its restrictions on elective procedures. The ACLU represents the clinic in litigation over the state halting most surgical abortions during the pandemic.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he was easing the elective surgery ban, which health officials said prohibited surgical abortions that weren’t necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. A federal appeals court upheld the abortion ban Wednesday.

The state will allow outpatient procedures to resume, but is requiring patients be tested for the virus within 48 hours of the procedure.

“While we are still reviewing the governor’s latest order, given the widespread unavailability of testing, we have serious concerns that it will continue to act as a ban on abortion care,” Holly Dickson, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement.

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