U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled Tuesday that three Arkansas abortion bans she temporarily blocked from taking effect will remain blocked indefinitely by a preliminary injunction as she considers a lawsuit challenging them. Baker granted a temporary restraining order against the restrictions minutes before midnight on July 22, a ruling that was set to expire late Tuesday night. The preliminary injunction replaces the temporary restraining order from July.
Little Rock Family Planning Services, the state’s only surgical abortion provider, said one of the restrictions, which would require doctors performing abortions in the state to be board-certified in obstetrics or gynecology, would likely force the clinic to close if enacted. Lori Williams, director of Little Rock Family Planning, said this is because the clinic only has one physician who meets the requirement, and he lives in California and works in Little Rock for a few days every other month.
One of the abortion restrictions would ban abortion after 18 weeks into pregnancy, and the other restriction would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if it’s being sought because the fetus received a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Little Rock Family Planning and Planned Parenthood are challenging the restrictions. The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until the constitutionality of the laws is decided. Linda Satter reports for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that a final decision on the laws’ constitutionality “could take months or years.”
Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), who sponsored the 18-week ban and attended Baker’s hearing of the arguments against the restrictions in July, told the Democrat-Gazette he’s “very disappointed” in Baker’s ruling.
“I’m very disappointed to see that yet again, the will of the people of Arkansas and the Arkansas Legislature is overturned by one single federal judge,” [Rapert said].
“It’s a sad day in America,” Rapert added, “when our laws protect little kittens and little puppies but it will not protect a little human being in a mother’s womb.”
“It is my intention,” he said, “that some day we will see abortion abolished and no longer used as a form of birth control.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge immediately filed an appeal of Baker’s ruling to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Amanda Priest, communications director for Rutledge’s office, said the Attorney General “continues to defend Arkansas law protecting women’s health by requiring a board certified or eligible OBGYN to perform an abortion, as well as Arkansas laws that protect unborn life by prohibiting abortions after 18-weeks and at any time if based on a Down Syndrome diagnosis.”