Abortion Courts Health Reproductive Rights

Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas Law Banning Almost All Abortions

On Tuesday, a federal judge placed a preliminary injunction on an Arkansas law that would ban most abortions. The temporary block ensures that the law will not go into effect until a final ruling on the legality of the ban is made.

U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker blocked the law, which would prohibit all abortions except for those performed in a medical emergency to save a pregnant person’s life. The ban does not allow for abortions in the case of rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities. Because the law prohibits abortions before the fetus is viable, Judge Baker said the measure was “categorically unconstitutional.”

“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,” Judge Baker wrote in her decision.

Several reproductive and civil rights groups, such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit in May to challenge the Arkansas ban. 

The bill was signed into law in March by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and it would have taken effect on July 28. Gov. Hutchinson signed the bill despite acknowledging that it was “not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now.”

The measure was designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision made in 1973 that makes abortion legal in the United States, as Gov. Hutchinson explicitly said. “I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” he told CNN in March on “State of the Union.”

Holly Dickson, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas, applauded Judge Baker’s decision. “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,” she said.

“The court’s ruling today should serve as a stark reminder to anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas and other states that they cannot strip people of their right to make the deeply personal decision about whether to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy,” said staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Meagan Burrows.

“We’ll continue to fight to make sure abortion stays legal in Arkansas and that the state’s unconstitutional ban is struck down for good.”

Sources: CNN 7/20/21; Arkansas State Legislature 3/9/21; Washington Post 7/21/21; NPR 7/2/21

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