A federal judge has blocked an Arkansas law that would allow abortions only for medical emergencies, after Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union teamed up to sue the state.
The new law was signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson in March and was slated to take effect on July 28 — before US District Judge Kristine G. Baker temporarily blocked the measure after the lawsuit was filed. Baker called the law “categorically unconstitutional.”
When Hutchinson signed the law, he said he signed it as “a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.” Roe v. Wade is the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.
In a statement, the ACLU noted that the law was one of 20 protections for the preborn that Arkansas passed in 2021 — “the highest number of abortion restrictions passed by any state in a single year since 1978.” The law would allow abortion to “save the life of the mother,” but makes no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or fetal anomalies. A doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the law could face fines of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
As Live Action News has repeatedly reported, however, that deliberately killing a preborn child is never medically necessary.
“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,” ACLU of Arkansas’s executive director, Holly Dickson, said in a statement.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who has voiced her support of the law, was disappointed with Baker’s decision, a spokeswoman said. “She will be reviewing it to consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn,” spokeswoman Stephanie Sharp said in an email to the AP.
Another pro-life law was blocked in South Carolina just last week. As Live Action News reported, in February, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act into law. The law requires abortionists to provide an ultrasound for the mother, and if the preborn child’s heartbeat is detected, abortion is prohibited.
Just one day after the governor signed the bill, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic and several other pro-abortion groups filed suit against it. U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis then granted a preliminary injunction against the law. Twenty states, led by Alabama, backed South Carolina by filing an amicus brief supporting South Carolina’s appeal of the ruling, arguing that the judge’s decision was “an error-filled district court opinion.”
According to Reuters Foundation, 19 states have enacted new protections for preborn children since January 2021: Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, South Dakota, Montana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Missouri.
In an interview with CNN, Meagan Burrows, staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said the judge may hold off on hearing the case until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks.
The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, gives SCOTUS the opportunity to reconsider Roe v. Wade as well as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court case that affirmed Roe v. Wade and set viability as the standard after which abortion can be restricted. Arguments will likely be heard in the fall of 2021 and a decision on the case is expected by the summer of 2022.
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