(PRESS RELEASE) A federal district judge permanently struck down an Arkansas law banning abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy today, saying the extreme measure would “prevent a woman’s constitutional right to elect to have an abortion before viability.”
SB 134 would have banned abortion in Arkansas at 12 weeks of pregnancy with only narrow exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies. SB 134 was enacted in March 2013—just two days after Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the measure—when both houses in the state legislature voted to override his veto.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Today the court has rightfully reaffirmed what Governor Beebe acknowledged in vetoing this extreme legislation—that state lawmakers cannot take away rights that the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court have guaranteed.
“We hope today’s decisive ruling will at last put a stop to the efforts of extremist politicians to roll back Arkansas women’s fundamental rights.”
While today’s decision blocks the law’s unconstitutional ban on abortion, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s ruling upheld a provision requiring all women seeking an abortion to first undergo an abdominal ultrasound and receive statistical information in writing about carrying pregnancies to term if a fetal heart tone is detected.
“While we are pleased that the court ultimately preserved women’s fundamental right to abortion, Arkansas women are fully capable of weighing their reproductive choices carefully and responsibly in consultation with their doctors – without politicians dictating what medical procedures or information they need,” added Northup.
The Center and the ACLU filed the lawsuit, Edwards v. Beck, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of two physicians who provide abortion services in Little Rock, arguing that the Arkansas law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning pre-viability abortions.
The physicians are represented by Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Talcott Camp with the ACLU, and Bettina Brownstein and Holly Dickson with the ACLU of Arkansas.
The Arkansas law was one of the most extreme in the nation, only surpassed by a currently-enjoined North Dakota measure banning the procedure as early as six-weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also recently blocked similar pre-viability bans.
Harmful restrictions like these underscore the need for the federal Women’s Health Protection Act, a Congressional bill designed to end the recent wave of anti-choice laws preventing women from accessing their constitutional right to an abortion—ensuring a woman’s constitutional rights do not depend on her zip code. The Women’s Health Protection Act would ensure abortion care is not singled out for medically unwarranted restrictions that ultimately harm women by preventing them from accessing safe and legal reproductive health services.