Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Dalton

Decision Date25 July 1994
Docket NumberNo. LR-C-93-803.,LR-C-93-803.
Citation860 F. Supp. 609
PartiesLITTLE ROCK FAMILY PLANNING SERVICES, P.A.; Curtis E. Stover, M.D.; Fayetteville Women's Clinic; and Tom Tvedten, M.D., on behalf of themselves and the Medicaid-eligible women of the state of Arkansas to whom they provide health care, Plaintiffs, v. Thomas DALTON, Director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, in his official capacity, Kenny Whitlock, Deputy Director of the Arkansas Division of Economic and Medical Services, in his official capacity, and Jim Guy Tucker, Governor of the State of Arkansas, in his official capacity, and their successors, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Arkansas



Bettina Brownstein of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, Little Rock, AR, and Eve C. Gartner, Kathryn Kolbert, and Terri James of The Center for Reproductive Law & Policy in New York City, for plaintiffs.

Debby Thetford Nye, Ann Purvis and Jeffrey A. Bell of the office of the Arkansas Atty. Gen., Winston Bryant, Little Rock, AR, for defendants.


WILSON, District Judge.

Plaintiffs have filed a motion for summary judgment in a civil action for injunctive and declaratory relief under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2. Little Rock Family Planning Services and the other plaintiffs seek to have this Court declare invalid and enjoin enforcement of Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution, alleging that it is in conflict with applicable federal law — the 1994 Hyde Amendment. Amendment 68 states that "No public funds will be used to pay for any abortion, except to save the mother's life." Under the Hyde Amendment that was signed into law on October 21, 1993, federal law requires Arkansas and other states that participate in the federal Medicaid program to pay for abortions in cases where pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, as well as abortions to save the mother's life. Plaintiffs argue that Amendment 68 is inconsistent with the Hyde Amendment and is thus preempted by federal law and void. Plaintiffs are correct, and the motion for summary judgment will be granted, for the reasons discussed below.


Summary judgment is appropriate only when there is no genuine issue of material fact, so that the dispute may be decided solely on legal grounds. Holloway v. Lockhart, 813 F.2d 874 (8th Cir.1987); Fed. R.Civ.P. 56. The Supreme Court has established guidelines to assist trial courts in determining whether this standard has been met:

The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial — whether, in other words, there are genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The Eighth Circuit has set out the burdens of the parties in connection with a summary judgment motion in Counts v. MK-Ferguson Co., 862 F.2d 1338 (8th Cir.1988):

The burden on the party moving for summary judgment is only to demonstrate, i.e., `to point out to the District Court,' that the record does not disclose a genuine dispute on a material fact. It is enough for the movant to bring up the fact that the record does not contain such an issue and to identify that part of the record which bears out his assertion. Once this is done, his burden is discharged, and if the record in fact bears out the claim that no genuine dispute exists on any material fact, it is then the respondent's burden to set forth affirmative evidence, specific facts, showing that there is a genuine dispute on that issue. If the respondent fails to carry that burden, summary judgment should be granted. Id. at 1339 (quoting City of Mt. Pleasant v. Associated Elec. Coop., 838 F.2d 268, 273-274 (8th Cir.1988).

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that summary judgment shall be rendered "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." The Supreme Court has emphasized that Rule 56 must be construed with due regard not only for the rights of people asserting claims and defenses "that are adequately based in fact to have those claims and defenses tried to a jury, but also for the rights of persons opposing such claims and defenses to demonstrate in the manner provided by the rule, prior to trial, that the claims and defenses have no factual basis." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).


The Court asked both parties if they desired a hearing on this matter — both responded that there are no material factual issues, and that there is no need for a hearing. The Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Since neither party requested oral arguments, the Court will decide the case based on the extensive discussion of the legal issues in the parties' pleadings and briefs.

Little Rock Family Planning Services is a provider under the Medicaid program and operates a women's health care facility providing reproductive health care services, including abortions, to Medicaid-eligible women in Arkansas. The state reimburses it for medical services, except for abortions that are not performed to save the mother's life. Some of the facility's patients are Medicaid-eligible women who seek to terminate pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.1 The facility's Medical Director is plaintiff Curtis Stover, M.D., a licensed physician who provides medical services including abortions to Medicaid-eligible women, some of whom are pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Little Rock Family Planning Services and Dr. Stover sue on their own behalf and on behalf of the Medicaid-eligible women for whom they provide health care services. Plaintiffs Fayetteville Women's Clinic and Dr. Tom Tvedten, M.D., provide services similar to those provided by Little Rock Family Planning Services and Dr. Stover.

Defendant Thomas Dalton is Director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS), the agency that administers public assistance in Arkansas. Kenny Whitlock is Deputy Director of DHS for the Division of Economic and Medical Services, which implements the state medical assistance program. The Governor is a defendant in his official capacity in enforcing state law.


Defendants allege that the complaint does not meet the requirements of the Article III case or controversy requirement, arguing that plaintiffs lack standing, and also that the case is premature under the ripeness doctrine. Standing is a threshold issue in every case before a federal court, determining the power of the court to entertain the suit. Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498, 95 S.Ct. 2197, 2205, 45 L.Ed.2d 343 (1975). A federal court's jurisdiction can be invoked only when the plaintiff has suffered "some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively illegal action." Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617, 93 S.Ct. 1146, 1148, 35 L.Ed.2d 536 (1973). The Supreme Court defined the constitutional requirements of standing in Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 3324, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984): "A plaintiff must allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief." Defendants contend that plaintiffs have "failed to present any situation in which they have incurred a direct and concrete injury." (Defendants' response to summary judgment motion, at 15).

It is clear that there is an actual controversy in this case. In Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179, 188-189, 93 S.Ct. 739, 745-746, 35 L.Ed.2d 201 (1973) and Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 96 S.Ct. 2868, 49 L.Ed.2d 826 (1976), the Supreme Court held that physicians have standing to assert the rights of their patients. The Court in Singleton found that the physicians had suffered concrete injury from a Missouri statute that excluded abortions that are not "medically indicated" from the purposes for which Medicaid benefits are available to needy persons. Singleton, at 106, 96 S.Ct. at 2870. The physician-plaintiffs alleged a sufficiently concrete interest in the outcome of their suit to make it a "case or controversy" under Article III, for they "have performed and will continue to perform operations for which they would be reimbursed under the Medicaid program, were it not for the limitation of reimbursable abortions to those that are `medically indicated.' If the physicians prevail in their suit to remove this limitation, they will benefit, for they will then receive payment for the abortions. The State (and Federal Government) will be out of pocket by the amount of the payments." Id. On the standing matter as to whether the physicians were proper proponents of the particular legal rights at issue, Justice Blackmun stated:

A woman cannot safely secure an abortion without a physician's aid, and an impecunious woman cannot easily secure an abortion without the physician's being paid by the State. Aside from the woman herself, the physician is uniquely qualified, by virtue of his confidential, professional relationship with her, to litigate the constitutionality of the State's interference with, or discrimination against, the abortion decision. Moreover, there are obstacles to the woman's assertion of her own rights, in that the desire to protect her privacy may deter her from herself bringing suit, and her claim will soon become at least technically moot if her indigency forces her to forgo the abortion. Singleton, at 111-118, 96 S.Ct. at 2873-2876.

Although the facts and state statute...

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