The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals again today has overturned a Little Rock judge’s ruling against state anti-abortion laws and sent it back for further hearings.

Judge Kristine Baker had blocked a variety of laws designed to lead toward an end to abortion in Arkansas.


The ruling today lifts her injunction and sends it back to Baker for more consideration in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning law in Louisiana. That law required doctors to have admitting privileges in hospitals, a law also blocked in Arkansas.

A 5-4 court affirmed a decision striking down the Louisiana law, but the majority was provided by Chief Justice John Roberts who said while precedent required that outcome, he disagreed with the reasoning and objected to courts weighing costs and benefits of anti-abortion laws. He said legislatures had broad discretion. He said courts could still decide such laws presented a “substantial burden” to women seeking abortions.


In the Arkansas appeal, in a brief unsigned decision, the 8th Circuit said Baker had applied a different standard, including a court weighing of benefits and costs, rather than the one enunciated by Roberts in his later ruling.

The injunction stays in place until Aug. 28. Then the new restrictions will take effect.


The ACLU, which represented the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the laws:


  • ban a safe and medically proven abortion method [the dilation and evacuation method used generally in the second trimester by the single medical abortion provider remaining in Arkansas];

  • require the patient notify their partner or other family members and effectively allow them to block their abortion; [The notice requirement is about disposal of fetal remains]

  • create new, needless, and burdensome requirements to report a patient’s abortion to local police in a way that invades the patient and family’s medical privacy — on top of the already robust mandatory reporting to state authorities; and

  • force doctors to request a vast number of medical records with no medical justification, all in an attempt to burden providers, violate physician-patient confidentiality, and delay or outright block care.


Said the ACLU:


If allowed to take effect, these restrictions would completely block many people from obtaining abortion care, and would eventually leave the state with even more limited abortion care.


“We are disappointed with today’s decision, but we will keep fighting to prevent these egregious laws that Arkansas politicians have tried to impose on people seeking abortion in the state to ban or block them from getting care,” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “All options are on the table to keep the laws blocked after August 28.”


“These onerous restrictions were designed with the singular intent to take away the right to abortion and punish people for seeking care,” said Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas legal director and interim executive director. “This ruling is a reminder that the fight against these extreme abortion restrictions is far from won. We are evaluating our next steps and will continue to fight to ensure these harmful and unconstitutional laws do not take effect.”

“We will exhaust our legal options to make sure these laws do not take effect,” said Hillary Schneller, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “There is no question that these laws would make it harder to access abortion in Arkansas. The Supreme Court just weeks ago reaffirmed that a state cannot pass laws that unduly burden a person’s access to abortion, and that is exactly what these laws do.”

Here’s the 8th Circuit ruling.

Insert the celebration for another defeat of women’s medical rights from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. She’s again “dismemberment” of “babies.” For women? Not so much.

The Democratic Party issued a statement:

“The purpose of this legislation isn’t to keep women safe or to protect families, it’s to punish those seeking abortion and to block personal freedom. People should be allowed the right to make the decisions that are best for their lives, so that their families can thrive,” said the DPA’s Christina Mullinax. “When someone decides to end a pregnancy, it should be safe, affordable, and free from punishment or judgment. It’s about respect and safety, and the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynocologists agree that unfortunately the restrictions Arkansas legislators passed are not only unnecessary but will actually make abortion less safe. If we really want to make abortion rare, we should increase access to contraception and support working parents.”
Since 2011, Republicans have proposed  55 abortion restrictions in the Arkansas Legislature, the Democratic Party said. These laws, it noted would
  • Ban the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions.
  • Force a woman to notify the biological father and/org family members about the abortion, in relation to what happens to the fetal remains.
  • Report to police a patient’s abortion, their address, and the preservation of some emrboynic or fetal tissue for patient’s under 14 years old.
  • Mandate doctors to request a voluminous number of medical records pertaining to the patient’s entire pregnancy history, designed to cause delays and extra burdens without medical justification.