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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Class Challenges Arkansas Abortion Law

LITTLE ROCK (CN) - Two doctors filed a federal class action against the Arkansas State Medical Board, challenging a new state law banning all abortion care at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Lead plaintiffs Drs. Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten sued all 14 members of the Arkansas State Medical Board, including board President Joseph M. Beck, on their own behalf and on behalf of their patients.

They claim the law banning abortion care after 12 weeks of pregnancy violates "over forty years of settled United States Supreme Court precedent."

The complaint states: "This is a constitutional challenge under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to Act 301 of the Arkansas General Assembly of 2013, to be codified as Ark. Code Ann. §§ 20-16-1301-1307 ('the Act'). In violation of over forty years of settled United States Supreme Court precedent, the Act bans abortion care starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy, threatening the rights, liberty, and well-being of Arkansas women and their families. Flouting the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Act violates the right to be free from unwarranted intrusion by politicians into matters so fundamentally affecting the course of a woman's life as the decision whether and when to have a child, and whether or not to carry a previable pregnancy to term. The Act would usurp this decision that - as a constitutional matter - must rest with a woman, her family, and her doctor."

The only exceptions to the ban are to save a woman's life, to prevent "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function," and "for cases of statutorily defined rape or incest."

"Under the Act, plaintiffs, medical doctors, are subject to the severe sanction of license revocation for providing abortion care starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy. The Act thus denies plaintiffs' patients their constitutionally guaranteed right to decide to end a previability pregnancy," the complaint states.

The doctors claim that 20 percent of abortions in Arkansas take place "at and after 12 weeks."

"The Act will prohibit most of these post-12 week, previability abortions. Absent an injunction, plaintiffs will have no choice but to turn away patients in need of abortion care. The constitutional rights of Arkansas women would suffer irreparably, as would their well-being and dignity," the complaint states.

"The Act presents physicians in Arkansas with an untenable choice: to face license revocation for continuing to provide abortion care in accordance with their best medical judgment, or to stop providing the critical care their patients seek."

They seek declaratory judgment that the law is unconstitutional, and want its enforcement enjoined.

Their lead counsel is Bettina Brownstein, a cooperating attorney with the ACLU in Little Rock.

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