Judge blocks Arkansas law banning most abortions

By | July 21, 2021

A federal judge blocked an Arkansas law that would ban nearly all abortions.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued the preliminary injunction on Tuesday against the law set to go into effect on July 28. The state’s Republican-led Legislature passed the bill, and GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed it into law in March.

If the law were to go into effect, it would allow for abortions to be performed only to save the mother’s life in a medical emergency. It does not provide exceptions for situations in which a woman is impregnated through rape or incest.

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The judge said the law was “categorically unconstitutional” because it would ban abortions before the fetus is considered viable, according to the Associated Press.

“Since the record at this stage of the proceedings indicates that women seeking abortions in Arkansas face an imminent threat to their constitutional rights, the Court concludes that they will suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief,” she wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood led a group of organizations that filed a challenge to the ban in May.

“We’re relieved that the court has blocked another cruel and harmful attempt to criminalize abortion care and intrude on Arkansans’ deeply personal medical decisions,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, in a statement. “This year, anti-abortion politicians across the country have introduced over 530 restrictions on abortion, with a record-setting 20 restrictions passed in Arkansas alone. This shameful assault on reproductive freedom targets people and families who are already among the most vulnerable Arkansas communities. Abortion is legal in Arkansas — just as it is in all 50 states — and we will continue to fight to keep it that way.”

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At the time he signed the bill, Hutchinson said he was giving it his approval “because of [its] overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions.”

“It is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law,” he said in reference to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal throughout the United States.

Hutchinson said he would have “preferred” if the bill made exceptions for “rape and incest,” adding it has “been my consistent view, and such exceptions would increase the chances for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court agreed to take up a case in May focusing on whether states can ban abortions before a fetus is viable outside of the womb. The court will hear arguments in the case, which focuses on a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, in the fall.

Healthcare