POLITICS

Judge Temporarily Blocks New Arkansas Anti-abortion Laws

Jul 24, 2019, 10:57 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:03 pm
FILE PHOTO...
FILE PHOTO

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge blocked three new abortion restrictions in Arkansas minutes before they were set to take effect Wednesday, including a measure that opponents say would likely force the state’s only surgical abortion clinic to close.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a 14-day temporary restraining order shortly before midnight Tuesday. The 159-page ruling blocks the state from enforcing the new laws, including a measure prohibiting the procedure 18 weeks into pregnancy. The blocked laws also included a requirement that doctors performing abortions be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. An official with a Little Rock clinic that performs surgical abortions says it has one physician who meets that requirement, but he only works there a few days every other month.

Baker found that if that surgical clinic closed, about 1,800 women a year — or 66% of those seeking to terminate a pregnancy in Arkansas — would be denied an abortion, based on evidence introduced into the court record.

She also wrote that the restriction “provides no discernable medical benefit” to women and questioned lawmakers’ intent in passing the law, known as Act 700.

“This, coupled with the record evidence that Arkansas has enacted more than 25 laws regulating abortion access in the state, including 12 enacted in 2019 alone, gives the court pause with respect to the purpose of Act 700,” she wrote.

The Arkansas bans are among a number of sweeping abortion restrictions enacted in Southern and Midwestern states . Republican lawmakers in those states are emboldened by the prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court revisiting its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The restrictions include an Alabama law that would make performing an abortion a felony in most cases. That law doesn’t take effect until November and is being challenged by abortion providers.

Baker also blocked a law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion if it’s being sought because the fetus has Down syndrome. For that law and the 18-week abortion ban, Baker found that both would unconstitutionally restrict abortion before the point of viability, or the likelihood that a fetus could survive outside the womb.

She wrote that the Down syndrome abortion restriction “is an absolute prohibition on certain abortions prior to viability which the Supreme Court has clearly held cannot be imposed by the state.”

The laws are being challenged by Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Services, the state’s only surgical abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood only offers medication-induced abortions in Arkansas and earlier this month stopped providing abortions at its Fayetteville facility while it looks for a new location. It continues to provide the procedure at its Little Rock center.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and Planned Parenthood challenged the laws. The group’s interim executive director, Holly Dickson, said early Wednesday that ACLU attorneys are reviewing the order.

“We are so relieved that these bans and restrictions have been temporarily blocked from taking effect. And we are determined to see them blocked for good,” Dickson said.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who has appealed Baker’s rulings in the past, said Wednesday that the legal challenge is “frustrating, but not unforeseen.”

“The action was only the initial step and I anticipate further action in the near future in our defense of these laws that protect the life of mothers and their unborn children,” Rutledge said.

Under current law, a physician licensed to practice medicine in Arkansas can perform abortions. The additional qualification for doctors performing abortions to be board-certified or eligible is similar to a Mississippi law that a federal judge upheld last year . Opponents say the requirement would prevent a large number of physicians from performing the procedure. The state says it would protect patients, but Baker rejected that argument.

“Record evidence supports that legal abortion is significantly safer for a woman than carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth,” she wrote.

Attorneys defending the law “have come forward with no reliable, generally accepted medical or scientific record evidence to refute this,” Baker said.

Little Rock Family Planning has said it has only one physician who meets that requirement, but he lives in California and only works at the clinic three to four days every other month. An official with the facility said Monday it could close within a month if the requirement was enforced.

Arkansas is one of two states with an 18-week ban. Utah enacted a similar restriction this year , but has agreed to not enforce it while it’s being challenged in federal court.

Several states have laws banning abortion for genetic anomalies including Down syndrome, but North Dakota’s is the only one in effect. The others are tied up in legal challenges.

It was the second time in recent years that Baker has blocked Arkansas abortion restrictions moments before they were to take effect. In 2017, she blocked the state from enforcing four laws including a ban on a second trimester decision. A federal appeals court is considering the state’s bid to allow those laws to be enforced.

Arkansas faced the prospect of losing its only surgical provider while neighboring Missouri’s only abortion clinic is fighting to continue providing the service . If that facility closes, Missouri would be the first state without an abortion clinic since the year after the Roe v. Wade decision.

The laws are among several new restrictions approved by the majority-Republican Legislature in Arkansas this year. Another law not challenged that took effect Wednesday increases the waiting period before a woman can get an abortion from 48 hours to 72 hours. Lawmakers also approved a measure that would ban abortion in the state if Roe v. Wade was overturned.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Politics

FILE - President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Cong...
Associated Press

Biden aims to deliver reassurance in State of Union address

President Joe Biden is ready to offer a reassuring assessment of the nation's condition rather than roll out flashy policy proposals as he delivers his second State of the Union address.
2 days ago
Utahns filling up their cars with gas. (KSL-TV)...
Matt Rascon

Gas prices jump 26 cents in one week, Utah governor blames supply

Gas prices have shot up more than usual in January, with increases Utahns generally see in March, and Gov. Cox said closed refineries and increased demand is to blame.
2 days ago
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 10: In this photo illustration, the FTX website is seen on a computer o...
Allison Morrow

FTX to politicians: Give us back our donations or we’ll sue you

New FTX management is pressuring hundreds of politicians and political organizations to return millions of dollars donated by them or its founders before it went bankrupt.
2 days ago
This week on Sunday Edition, Doug Wright is joined by KSL reporter Ladd Egan to look ahead at abort...
KSL TV

Sunday Edition: Utah Abortion Bill, School Vouchers

This week on Sunday Edition, Doug Wright is joined by KSL reporter Ladd Egan to look ahead at abortion access legislation being unveiled on Utah's Capitol Hill and speak to the representative who brought the school choice bill into law and their future bills.
3 days ago
This photo purports to show the suspected Chinese balloon flying over Mills River, North Carolina, ...
Heather Chen and Wayne Chang

China says it ‘reserves the right’ to deal with ‘similar situations’ after US jets shoot down suspected spy balloon

China says it "reserves the right" to deal with "similar situations" following the United States' decision to shoot down its high-altitude balloon.
3 days ago
HOV lanes for pregnant women...
Katija Stjepovic

House passes bill allowing pregnant women to drive solo in HOV lanes

Pregnant women may soon be allowed to drive solo in HOV lanes after a bill allowing just that passed in the Utah House of Representatives Friday.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Judge Temporarily Blocks New Arkansas Anti-abortion Laws