Edwards v. Beck
(REVISED 10.25.2022) This case was a challenge to a 12-week abortion ban passed by the Arkansas Legislature in 2013. The law required that a doctor perform an ultrasound prior to terminating a pregnancy and attempt to detect a “heartbeat.” It then prohibited abortions beginning at twelve weeks of pregnancy if a “heartbeat” could be detected, effectively banning all abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy or later. The Center for Reproductive Rights, together with the ACLU and the ACLU of Arkansas, challenged the law in federal court in April 2013, on behalf of two Arkansas doctors and their patients. The plaintiffs argued that the ban violated patients’ constitutional rights to liberty and privacy under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court agreed and permanently enjoined the ban, ruling that it was unconstitutional because there is no evidence a fetus can be viable at twelve weeks. The court, however, upheld the law’s provisions mandating that doctors perform an ultrasound examination on every woman seeking an abortion and then inform the woman in writing whether the fetus possesses a “heartbeat,” as well as the statistical probability of carrying a fetus of that gestational age to term. The State appealed in May 2014, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard oral argument in the case in January 2015. On May 27, 2015, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the twelve week ban is unconstitutional. On October 6, 2015, the State petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. The Court declined to review the case on January 19, 2016, allowing the district court and Eighth Circuit decisions to stand. The state of Arkansas was ordered to pay over $100,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
On July 1, 2022, the State filed a motion with the trial court to reopen the case in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, vacate the permanent injunction, and recoup attorney’s fees and costs.
Plaintiff(s): Louis Jerry Edwards, MD and Tom Tvedten MD
Center Attorney(s): Autumn Katz
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Bettina Brownstein, ACLU of AR, Susan Talcott Camp, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project