Judge Blocks Arkansas Abortion Laws From Taking Effect

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) – A federal judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of a set of Arkansas laws that would have eliminated abortions in some cases and likely would have forced the shuttering of the state’s only surgical abortion clinic.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock issued the 14-day temporary restraining order just before midnight Tuesday, on the eve that the new laws were slated to take effect.

The 159-page order found it was unconstitutional for the state to impose a ban on women seeking an abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The judge also blocked a restriction prohibiting physicians from providing the procedure unless they are board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.

“Since the record at this stage of the proceedings indicates that Arkansas women seeking abortions face an imminent threat to their constitutional rights, the court concludes that they will suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief,” Baker wrote.

A law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome was also blocked from taking effect.

The state’s only surgical abortion clinic, Little Rock Family Planning Services, and Planned Parenthood Great Plains filed the lawsuit challenging the three new laws, along with two physicians. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The last minute attempt by the ACLU to block Arkansas’s laws is frustrating, but not unforeseen,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said in a statement. “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.”

Arkansas legislators have passed at least 25 abortion restrictions in the last few years.

States like Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia have also passed strict abortion measures as part of a nationwide strategy to prevent people from getting needed care, said Meagan Burrows, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Holly Dickson, legal director and interim executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said she was relieved to see the state’s latest restrictions blocked.

“We’re determined to see them struck down for good,” Dickson said. “Personal medical decisions are just that – personal – and politicians have no business barging into people’s private decisions, shutting down clinics and blocking people from care that they need.”

Baker’s restraining order is set to expire Aug. 6 at 11:45 p.m.

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