Judge Kristine Baker has renewed her order blocking enforcement of four Arkansas anti-abortion laws.
She’d blocked them once before and the 8th Circuit lifted that order saying she needed to provide more analysis of the laws’ obvious damaging impact on abortions by Little Rock Family Planning Services, the only medical abortion provider in the state.
One of the laws blocks the safest and most commonly used medical procedure for abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. It’s the only method the clinic uses in the second trimester and its enforcement would effectively end such abortions in Arkansas.
The ACLU cheered Baker’s decision:
In a critical victory for abortion access in Arkansas, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights secured an order today from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas blocking four state anti-abortion laws.
Last month, that court issued a 14-day temporary restraining order blocking the four laws only a few hours after the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed them to take effect. During the short time the laws were in effect, Little Rock Family Planning Services was forced to cancel appointments. Today’s ruling will keep the laws blocked while the case continues.
“This order will ensure that essential reproductive health care services will remain available in Arkansas,” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “The laws blocked by the court today do nothing but place roadblock after roadblock in front of patients, in violation of their constitutionally protected rights. Arkansas politicians may continue this ruthless attack on abortion, but we will see them in court every time.”
If allowed to take effect, the laws would completely prevent many people from obtaining abortion care, create intrusive and stigmatizing requirements that violate patients’ privacy rights, and leave the state with even more limited access to abortion. The litigation is supported by several medical experts and five Arkansas abortion patients who spoke to the devastating impact the laws would have if enforced.
“Arkansas legislators took an oath to protect people’s constitutional rights — not trample on them with harmful dictates and restrictions,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “We’re relieved the court will continue to block these unconstitutional laws while we keep fighting to have them struck down for good.”
“Today’s decision brings welcome, but temporary, relief to those seeking time-sensitive and essential abortion care in Arkansas,” said Jenny Ma, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “For now, anti-abortion lawmakers have been halted from devastating abortion access in the state. Just last month, we saw the impact of these laws when they took effect for just a few hours: patients were turned away and abortion access was severely limited. We can’t allow that to become the status quo for Arkansas and will continue to fight in court.”
The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP on behalf of Frederick W. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H. and Little Rock Family Planning Services.
The order, which can be seen here, also sets rules for disposal of fetal remains; requires police reports of abortions for women younger than 16, and allows inspection of medical records for a woman who seeks an abortion after knowing the sex of the fetus. The opinion of more than 200 pages is another monumental piece of medical scholarship by Judge Baker that starkly outlines how Arkansas has progressively inched toward a de facto ban on abortion in Arkansas, particularly for poor women.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge will continue her legal battle to deprive women of abortion rights. Earlier this week, she lost her appeal to the 8th Circuit attempting to reinstate two other anti-abortion laws Baker had blocked — all abortions after 18 weeks’ gestation and abortions were a woman knew of a fetal anomaly. In that opinion, the 8th Circuit roughly refused Rutledge’s effort to remove Baker from hearing abortion cases because she repeatedly strikes down unconstitutional laws from the legislature.