LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Thursday granted a motion for a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit challenging a new Arkansas law limiting the administration of abortion pills.

LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Thursday granted a motion for a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit challenging a new Arkansas law limiting the administration of abortion pills.


Act 577 of 2015, the Arkansas Abortion-Inducing Drugs Act, has a Jan. 1, 2016, effective date, but at 4:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a motion by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland for a temporary restraining order barring enforcement of the law. The order will expire Jan. 14 unless the judge extends it.


The law, which was sponsored by Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, requires that a provider of abortions via pill have a signed contract with a doctor who agrees to handle complications. The doctor must have admitting privileges at a hospital designated to handle emergencies associated with the use of the abortion pill.


The law also requires that a provider of abortion via pill follow the dosage and instructions approved for the pill by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, one of two abortion providers operating in Arkansas, and Dr. Stephanie Ho, who administers abortion pills for Planned Parenthood, filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the law would unduly burden a woman’s right to an abortion in the state.


The organization claims it is unable to meet the requirement of a having a contract with a doctor to handle complications and that the current standard of care calls for women to receive a lower dosage of the drug mifepristone than the FDA approved 15 years ago.


The suit claims that both Planned Parenthood and the other abortion provider in the state, Little Rock Family Planning Services, will be unable to administer abortion pills in Arkansas if Act 577 goes into effect.


In a 24-page order Thursday, Baker said that "removing medication abortion as an option for women will result in serious negative consequences for those women for whom medication abortion is medically indicated."


Baker also wrote, "This court determines that, based on the record before the court at this stage of the proceeding and at least for now, the FPL (final printed labeling) regimen does not appear to be the current standard of care and that it appears to be inferior to the evidence-based regimen used currently by PPH and Dr. Ho and by abortion providers around the country today."


The judge said the defendants in the suit, Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley and Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett, are enjoined from enforcing Act 577 and must immediately notify all state officials responsible for enforcing the law of the ruling. Planned Parenthood’s Arkansas clinics are in Little Rock and Fayetteville.


Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said in a statement Thursday that it was pleased the judge "ruled on the side of Arkansas women."


"Restrictive laws like Act 577 aren’t about protecting women; they are about advancing the political agendas of the lawmakers who introduce and support them," the organization said. "It is inexcusable they so willingly ignore the best medical evidence and practice, solely to achieve their own goals."


Judd Deere, spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Thursday the restraining order "is limited to enforcement of portions of the act against the specific plaintiffs in this case; therefore, the act, including those portions, will still take effect tomorrow."


"Act 577 of 2015 was passed by the General Assembly and seeks to ensure medication abortions are conducted in a safe, responsible manner and with appropriate protections in the case of adverse effects," he said. "Attorney General Rutledge will fully defend this statute and believes it will ultimately be upheld."


Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement that he signed the measure into law "because I agreed with the Legislature’s intent to protect women by requiring physicians to follow procedures approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for these abortion drugs and to have the abortion clinic’s doctor associate with a physician who has hospital privileges."


"This is a commonsense approach for safety and I am hopeful the court agrees that this is a proper purpose for the legislature to act," he said. "As made evident by their lawsuit, Planned Parenthood places a premium on the convenience of abortion providers over the health and welfare of women seeking these procedures."