Arkansas Targets Planned Parenthood Center That Has Never Provided Abortion

Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP) has hit out at an Arkansas prosecutor for targeting a health center that has never provided abortion services.

Arkansas was among the states that took swift action after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing the state's 2019 trigger law banning nearly all abortions to take immediate effect.

The court's stunning decision on Friday ended the constitutional right to abortion, and researchers say it is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the U.S. states.

On Tuesday, Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith sent a letter to PPGP's health center in Rogers stating that he would enforce Act 180, which prohibits abortions in all cases except to save the mother's life in a medical emergency.

Performing or attempting to perform an abortion is now an unclassified felony and is subject to up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000, Smith said in the letter.

People protest in front of Supreme Court
People protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling on June 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

He noted that some prosecutors around the country have indicated they would not enforce similar laws in their states.

"In order to avoid any confusion, I am witting to you now to assure you that I will enforce Act 180 of 2019," he wrote. "All health care providers should be aware that a violation of this statute will result in arrest and prosecution."

Emily Wales, the president and CEO of PPGP, hit back at Smith for sending the letter when the Rogers Health Center has never offered abortion services.

"While Arkansans are dealing with grief, fear, and frustration over the loss of rights they held for nearly 50 years, we're getting letters like this at a health center where we have never provided abortion services," Wales said in a statement to Newsweek.

"The people of Arkansas, and certainly providers of sexual and reproductive care, are fully aware there is no right in this state to safe, legal abortion."

Wales accused Smith of sending the letter to the media ahead of the intended recipient.

"Sending a letter to the media before you give a copy to the intended recipient doesn't feel like following the law—it feels like making a play for headlines and scaring off victims who otherwise should be able to turn to law enforcement for empathy and support," Wales said.

Wales said the Rogers Health Center, which opened in September 2021, is continuing to see patients for time-sensitive services, including birth control, STI and HIV testing and treatment, gender-affirming care and primary care.

"Let me be clear: our Rogers Health Center has never provided abortion care, which we would expect a local prosecutor to know," Wales said.

"But in case he needs reminding, our doors remain open for other comprehensive care. Instead, we urge him to address actual problems in Benton County including the nearly 20 percent increase in sex crimes last year. There's work to be done and this isn't it."

Smith has been contacted for comment.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the state of U.S. abortion laws after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

State of U.S. abortion laws
The state of U.S. abortion laws after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Statista