(Revised 8.19.20) This case, filed on behalf of a woman’s health care provider in federal district court by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Arkansas, is a challenge to four abortion restrictions passed in Arkansas in 2017. Specifically, the lawsuit challenges a ban on one of the safest and most common methods of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester as well as a host of restrictions that force doctors to notify others--including family members--of a woman’s abortion. Virtually identical laws banning one of the safest and most common methods of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester in Louisiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma have not taken effect due to challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The ACLU has also successfully blocked a similar ban in Alabama. In addition to challenging the ban—a measure that threatens to end second-trimester abortion care in the state—the lawsuit also challenges several first-of-their-kind measures:
- a measure that would prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion until her physician, for no medical reason, has spent an undefined amount of “time and effort” to obtain her medical records relating to her “entire pregnancy history.” The measure would require disclosure of a woman’s abortion to every health care professional from whom she has received pregnancy care during her current pregnancy and any previous pregnancy, and potentially cause an indefinite delay in receiving care,
- a measure that would force doctors to notify a woman’s family members about their right to participate in the disposition of tissue from her abortion or miscarriage. The same measure could effectively ban medication abortion by imposing impossible requirements on women and their health care providers when a woman completes her medication abortion outside of a doctor’s office. Restrictions related to disposal of tissue, such as requirements that mandate burial or cremation of fetal tissue, have been blocked across the country, including in Texas where the Center has preliminarily blocked such a measure from taking effect.
- a measure that would violate the privacy rights of young women under the age of 17 seeking safe, legal abortion services by disclosing her name and additional information to local law enforcement, and could effectively ban medication abortion for these young women.
Arkansas passed the highest number of measures restricting a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion in 2017. Many of the measures could impose significant, if not indefinite, delays on a woman’s ability to access to abortion and miscarriage care. In short, these laws could effectively end abortion care in the state for many women.
Plaintiff(s):Dr. Fred Hopkins, Little Rock Family Planning Services
Center Attorney(s): Hillary Schneller
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Talcott Camp, Ruth Harlow, and Elizabeth Watson, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Bettina Brownstein, the ACLU of Arkansas
The Center for Reproductive Rights—with the ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas—filed a lawsuit on June 20, 2017 in federal district court challenging four abortion restrictions passed in Arkansas this year: (i) a ban of the safest method of second-trimester abortion, (ii) a measure that prohibits a woman from obtaining an abortion until her physician has spent an undefined amount of “time and effort” to obtain her medical records relating to her “entire pregnancy history,” (iii) a measure that would force doctors to notify a woman’s family members about their right to participate in the disposition of tissue from her abortion or miscarriage, and (iv) a measure that would disclose the names and additional information of women under the age of 17 seeking abortion care to local law enforcement. On August 4, the trial court granted our request for a preliminary injunction, blocking all four restrictions from taking effect.
On August 25, 2017, the State filed an appeal of the preliminary injunction with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Oral argument took place in December 2018 and on August 7, 2020, the appellate court vacated the injunction and remanded the case back to the district court for reconsideration.