The Arkansas Board of Health says three abortion facilities have violated a state law by collecting money for abortion procedures during the mandated waiting period. According to the abortion facilities, many women do not return for their abortion after receiving an ultrasound, so they end up not getting paid for services rendered.
Despite this, the abortion facilities were not fined for their violations. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports:
In an 11-2 vote, the board upheld findings issued by the Department of Health in March after inspections of Little Rock Family Planning Services and Planned Parenthood clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville.
The board agreed with the department that the clinics had been violating a 2015 state law, which was amended last year to apply to any “facility, employee or volunteer of a facility” as well as to physicians.
While the board didn’t impose a fine or other penalty, the finding keeps in place a restriction that the clinics say has caused them to lose thousands of dollars.
But a 2015 law mandates that facilities must not charge patients for any part of the abortion visit during the 48-hour waiting period. The abortion facility’s attorney says this is unfair to her clients:
The clinics’ attorney, Bettina Brownstein of Little Rock, said the law violates the federal and state constitutions by requiring the clinics to provide certain services to women at least 48 hours before an abortion while prohibiting them from charging for those services at the time.
Many women never return to the clinic after their initial visits and, as a result, don’t end up paying their bills, she said.
“No medical professional in the history of this state has been required to provide mandated medical services for free, and that’s what [state health officials are] doing,” Brownstein said.
It is possible that some women don’t return thanks to required informed consent for patients:
Before the start of the waiting period, the law requires the doctor to explain the potential risks associated with the procedure, estimate the gestational age of the fetus and describe the “probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child.”
In filings with the board, the three clinics said they perform an ultrasound during the initial visit to determine the location and age of the fetus and whether it has a heartbeat — something required to be determined under a 2013 state law.
While medical services provided — such an ultrasounds — should be compensated, the fact remains that it is illegal to charge for part of the abortion procedure in that waiting period. After all, paying for something brings a sense of obligation and could potentially make women feel that they must follow through, whether or not they feel conflicted. The waiting period is designed to be a time to reflect and consider an irreversible and life-altering decision — without cost.