Federal Judge Asked to Block Four Arkansas Abortion Laws

(CN) — Attorneys for an Arkansas physician on Thursday asked a federal judge to block four new state laws they say create substantial and unnecessary burdens on women seeking abortion.

Attorneys with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU told U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker that the laws, which include a ban on the safest and most common procedure used in second trimester abortions, are unconstitutional.

The doctor also challenged a law prohibiting woman from obtaining an abortion until her physician spends an undefined amount of “time and effort” to obtain medical records on her entire pregnancy history; and a law that requires doctors to notify police when a woman younger than 17 gets an abortion.

The fourth challenged law, House Bill 1566, would require doctors to notify a woman’s family members about their right to participate in the disposition of fetal tissue from an abortion or miscarriage.

That law would give both parents of an aborted or miscarried child equal rights in determining the disposition of the remains. Since it has no language exempting rapists, opponents say women could be required to notify their rapists when they seek an abortion.

“These statutes threaten plaintiff with criminal penalties and deny and burden plaintiff’s patients’ constitutionally protected rights to decide to end a pre-viability pregnancy, to make independent decisions related to their pregnancy care, and to protect their private medical information,” the complaint states.

Arkansas Deputy Solicitor General Nick Bronni told the judge that the plaintiff physician “spends most of his time conjuring problems that don’t actually exist on the face of the statute in order to find obstacles hiding in the shadows.”

Bronni said the fetal disposition law does not actually require permission or notice from any third parties before an abortion and “includes several provisions that ensure notice or consent isn’t required to dispose of the fetal remains.”

The 2-page text of HB 1566 includes no such provisions. However, it does require fetal remains to be disposed of in accordance with the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which excludes any “estranged” person from having a say in disposition of remains.

Arkansas passed more abortion restrictions than any other state this year, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“From essentially banning abortion in the second trimester to violating women’s privacy, these measures represent a new low,” Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement. “The Supreme Court made clear one year ago in Whole Woman’s Health that politicians can’t stand between women and their constitutional rights.”

The Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt held, with a Texas clinic, that restrictions on legal abortions cannot unduly burden a woman without providing a legitimate medical benefit.

Laws similar to Arkansas’ new measure banning the most common second trimester abortion procedure, dilation and evacuation, have been blocked in Louisiana, Kansas and Oklahoma after legal challenges from the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the ACLU has blocked such a ban in Alabama.

Restrictions relating to disposition of fetal tissue have been blocked across the country, including Texas, where a federal judge in January enjoined the state from enforcing rules that would require fetal remains to be given a funeral after a miscarriage, abortion or ectopic pregnancy.

Judge Baker on Thursday did not indicate when she would rule on the plaintiff’s request for a temporary injunction. Three of the laws are to take effect Aug. 1.

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