As expected, federal legal challenges have been filed by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood against the latest attempts by the Arkansas legislature to restrict abortion so much that it is practically unobtainable.
Here’s the news release:
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, the ACLU of Arkansas, Planned Parenthood, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging a set of abortion bans and restrictions that would outlaw and severely restrict abortion access in the state.
Filed on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and two physician providers, the lawsuit seeks to block three laws scheduled to take effect on July 24: Act 493, which bans abortion starting at 18 weeks of pregnancy; Act 619, which bans abortion based on a woman’s reason for seeking care; and Act 700, which prohibits qualified physicians from providing safe, legal abortion, thereby severely limiting the pool of available abortion providers in the state and burdening access to care.
“These dangerously extreme bans and restrictions are part of a nationwide effort to criminalize abortion, while punishing providers and shaming families seeking care,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas legal director. “Personal medical decisions should be made by families in consultation with their health providers, not dictated by politicians trying to force people to remain pregnant against their will and against medical advice. Today, we’re challenging three plainly unconstitutional laws that would completely outlaw abortions for many Arkansans and target health providers with restrictions that would push care even further out of reach.”
“For years, anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas have passed medically unnecessary restrictions as part of a national strategy to push abortion out of reach entirely and stigmatize reproductive health care. We will not stand by and allow politicians to attack the health and well-being of Arkansans for their own political gain,” said Meagan Burrows, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We ask the court to block these harmful restrictions that criminalize abortion and shame people seeking care.”
“Arkansas politicians are trying to ban abortion one law at a time,” said Dr. Brandon J. Hill, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “Preventing qualified physicians from providing safe, legal abortion services goes against medical evidence and sound practice to push abortion out of reach for people across Arkansas. Politicians keep trying to interfere with our patients’ rights, but we remain committed to fighting on their behalf.”
These laws ban and unconstitutionally restrict Arkansans from accessing abortion care. The lawsuit asks the court to declare the laws unconstitutional and block them from taking effect. The complaint notes that the two abortion bans (Act 493 and Act 619) stand in direct conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade by outright banning abortion prior to viability. Act 700, which bans qualified physicians from providing abortion care based on an arbitrary and medically unnecessary requirement that they be board-eligible or certified in obstetrics and gynecology, also violates the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt by imposing significant burdens on abortion access with no countervailing medical or health benefit.
Anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas have passed 25 restrictions targeting abortion providers in the last few years. Arkansas has more than 1.4 million women and only three health centers providing abortion care, located in Fayetteville and Little Rock. In 2017, a federal judge in Arkansas blocked four laws restricting abortion access in the state.
In response to a wave of abortion bans passed across the country this year, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have filed lawsuits in Alabama and Ohio and are preparing a challenge to Georgia’s abortion ban. The ACLU is also challenging an abortion ban in Kentucky.
Arkansas has already had a 12-week abortion ban struck down and fully expects this one to go, too, under existing court precedent that protects abortion rights before viability of the fetus around 23 weeks.
Artificial limits on medical care are passed by the Arkansas legislature ONLY when it comes to abortion, not other medical services. The state legislature, tugging on heart strings, has attempted to ban abortions where Down Syndrome is a possibility. Roe v. Wade doesn’t require a reason for a woman to decide on abortion pre-viability. (And the Arkansas law includes a ban to those who might have serious health reasons to choose abortion.)
Here’s the brief for a temporary restraining order.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and legislative sponsors will of course fight this and claim they are protecting the health of women. It’s a lie. Pregnancy is more dangerous than abortion. These laws are nothing but a pretext to make it illegal de facto as long as the law says bans are unconstitutional. The hope in Arkansas and elsewhere is that a case will reach the U.S. Supreme Court with new anti-abortion Trump justices sufficient to return the U.S. to the dark ages. Illegal abortions won’t end if they are successful, of course. Meanwhile, the legislature does nothing about the state’s high infant and maternal mortality rate in its rush to protect even a microscopic fetus.
The state will spend huge sums defending a law that is patently unconstitutional under decades of precedent in hopes that Trump judges will save them. Women will suffer. Unwanted pregnancies will continue.
Feeling charitable? Send some money to ACLU Arkansas or Planned Parenthood. Women’s medical rights are on the line.