Arkansas Judge Temporarily Blocks State’s 12-Week Abortion Ban

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Arkansas Judge Temporarily Blocks State’s 12-Week Abortion Ban

Jessica Mason Pieklo

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber ruled from the bench and temporarily blocked the state's extreme law from taking effect while a legal challenge to it proceeds.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights appeared in court Friday to ask a federal judge to prevent an Arkansas law that would ban abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy from taking effect. Following arguments, Judge Susan Webber ruled from the bench and temporarily blocked the law from taking effect, ruling that the ban cannot take effect while the legal challenge to the law proceeds.

The law was passed in March when the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto. The ban is set to take effect on August 16.

“This law is an extreme example of how lawmakers around the country are trying to limit a woman’s ability to make the best decision for herself and her family,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “Far from safeguarding women’s health, these laws are designed with one purpose—to eliminate all access to abortion care.”

The ruling came just two days after Judge Webber rejected efforts by the state to dismiss the legal challenge on a variety of grounds, including arguments by state attorneys that doctors and patients must wait for the ban to take effect before they have sufficient legal challenge to sue. “We have asked the court to stop this dangerous law from going into effect,” Holly Dickson, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement. “This law is aimed at allowing politicians to insert themselves into deeply personal and private medical care and decisions for which they should have no say.”

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The Arkansas abortion law is one of the most extreme in the nation, surpassed only by the recently enacted North Dakota measure banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.

“Today’s decision ensures that the women of Arkansas will remain protected from this blatant unconstitutional assault on their health and fundamental reproductive rights,” Nancy Northrup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Such an extreme ban on abortion would have immediate and devastating consequences for women in Arkansas, especially those who could not afford to travel out of state to access reproductive health care. We are confident that the court will continue to uphold women’s constitutional right to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and ultimately strike down this harmful law permanently.”

The physicians are represented by Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Talcott Camp at the ACLU, and Bettina Brownstein and Holly Dickson with the ACLU of Arkansas.