Federal Appeals Court Denies Rehearing in Case Challenging Arkansas Abortion Restrictions

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If the challenged laws take effect, they will wreak havoc on abortion access in the state
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The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied today the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ request for en banc rehearing of an August 2020 decision that paved the way for Arkansas abortion restrictions to go into effect.

With this order, the four Arkansas laws at issue in the case could go into effect as soon as Dec. 22. Absent further court intervention, that would completely block many people from obtaining abortion care and would leave Arkansans with even more limited access to abortion. These laws are just four of the more than 480 abortion restrictions states have passed across the country since 2011. These four laws were passed to: 

  • Ban the standard method of abortion provided after approximately 14 weeks of pregnancy in Arkansas;
  • Require that patients’ partners or other family members be notified of their abortion;
  • Force the health care center to report a teenage patient’s abortion to local police and allow the state crime lab to indefinitely hold their personal medical information; and
  • Force physicians to request a vast number of medical records for each patient with no medical justification, violating physician-patient confidentiality and delaying — or outright blocking — access to abortion care.

“These Arkansas laws represent the worst motives of anti-abortion politicians: to shame, stigmatize, and humiliate abortion patients, and to make abortion care difficult if not impossible to access, ” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “While we’re disappointed with this order from the Eighth Circuit, we’re not backing down — this fight is nowhere near over. To the state of Arkansas: We’ll see you back in court.”

"These extreme bans and restrictions would push abortion care out of reach to many who need it and brazenly intrude on people's most personal medical decisions,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “While we're disappointed the Eighth Circuit declined to rehear the case, this fight is not over. The people of Arkansas have a constitutional right to control their own lives and make their own medical decisions, and we'll never stop fighting to protect it."

“These laws attempt to strip pregnant people in Arkansas of their constitutional right to safe, legal, and confidential abortion care,” said Hillary Schneller, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Not on our watch. Our top priority remains ensuring pregnant people do not face any disruption in their access to abortion care in Arkansas.”

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP on behalf of Frederick W. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H.

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MEDIA CONTACT: 

Mia Jacobs, ACLU, 201-919-0333, mjacobs@aclu.org

Channing Grate, ACLU of Arkansas, channing@gpsimpact.com

Center for Reproductive Rights, 585-919-9966, center.press@reprorights.org