Arkansas attorney general sends cease-and-desist letters to out-of-state abortion pill providers

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin has sent cease-and-desist letters to two abortion pill providers in New York and Europe, demanding they stop marketing and selling the medication in his state, where abortion is illegal.

Mr Griffin announced on Tuesday that he was taking the first step in warning the companies - Choices Women’s Medical Center Inc based in New York, and Aid Access based in the Netherlands - to stop “advertising the availability of abortion-inducing pills” in Arkansas.

Both companies have created website pages that appeal directly to Arkansans and offer medical solutions to people in need of abortions.

Aid Access says people in Arkansas can buy the abortion pill, mifepristone and misoprostol, online and the company will ship it to them. Choices Women’s Medical Center Inc says it can connect Arkansas with its clinic “serving patients from Little Rock” to help.

“These companies must cease and desist advertising relating to the performance of abortion services in Arkansas immediately or face the possibility of lawsuits from my office,” Mr Griffin wrote.

Almost all kinds of abortions are illegal in Arkansas except to save a mother’s life, though there is a lot of uncertainty around what that means.

Since Arkansas, and other states, have enacted anti-abortion laws, some companies and organizations have offered to ship abortion pills where access is limited. More than half of abortions in the US are performed with medication rather than surgery.

Mr Griffin told the companies that “abortion pills may not legally be shipped to Arkansas” – though the state statute he invoked was under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. “... It appears that some of your business practices may constitute false, deceptive, and unconscionable trade practice under (ADTPA),” Mr Griffin wrote.

The attorney general warned that failure to cease advertising abortion services in Arkansas would result in a formal investigation or lawsuit. The companies could face penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

Voters in Arkansas have the opportunity to weigh in on abortion restrictions in the state through a November ballot measure. The group Arkansans for Limited Government are working on obtaining enough signatures to move the ballot measure forward.

The proposed measure would protect abortion within the 18 weeks of pregnancy and include exemptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal anomalies as well as protecting the life and physical health of the mother.