As expected, federal Judge Kristine Baker has blocked the new Arkansas law outlawing virtually all abortions.
The law is a direct contradiction to Roe v. Wade, which prohibits abortion bans before the viability of a fetus. Lawmakers hope eventually for the law to reach a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court that might reverse Roe v. Wade. Other states controlled by anti-abortion Republicans have already reached the courthouse with similar efforts to limit women’s medical rights.
From the ACLU:
A federal district court in Arkansas granted a preliminary injunction today blocking Arkansas’ abortion ban. The ban, which would have prohibited abortion in nearly every case and imposed stiff criminal penalties on doctors for providing care, was scheduled to take effect on July 28. It was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March, and was one of 20 restrictions on abortion that Arkansas passed in 2021 — the highest number of abortion restrictions passed by any state in a single year since 1978, when Louisiana passed 20 restrictions.
The ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm O’Melveny & Myers filed a challenge to the ban in May.
“Today’s decision makes clear that Arkansas’ abortion ban is just as unconstitutional as the bans struck down before it in states like Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, and Missouri, and ensures that abortion remains legal in Arkansas, as it is in all 50 states,” said Meagan Burrows, staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Arkansas pursued a clearly unconstitutional law that would disproportionately harm people of color, people who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes — all of whom already face significant barriers to accessing health care and higher risks of pregnancy-related death. The court’s ruling today should serve as a stark reminder to anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas and other states that they cannot strip people of their right to make the deeply personal decision about whether to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy. We’ll continue to fight to make sure abortion stays legal in Arkansas and that the state’s unconstitutional ban is struck down for good.”
“We’re relieved that the court has blocked another cruel and harmful attempt to criminalize abortion care and intrude on Arkansans’ deeply personal medical decisions,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “This year, anti-abortion politicians across the country have introduced over 530 restrictions on abortion, with a record-setting 20 restrictions passed in Arkansas alone. This shameful assault on reproductive freedom targets people and families who are already among the most vulnerable Arkansas communities. Abortion is legal in Arkansas — just as it is in all 50 states — and we will continue to fight to keep it that way.”
“Today’s decision is a win for Arkansans. When state politicians across the country attack abortion access, we fight back,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “While we welcome this ruling that affirms our patients’ right to safe, legal abortion, we also know the work continues. We won’t stand for these relentless attacks on our basic rights and freedoms that target women, people of color, people with low incomes, and LGBTQ+ people. Planned Parenthood remains focused on its patients and committed to ensuring that everyone has access to sexual and reproductive health care in Arkansas, and across the country.”
“Today’s ruling demonstrates that the court fully understands the harmful and immediate effects this law would have on Arkansans,” said Brandon Hill, PhD, Planned Parenthood Great Plains president and CEO, whose affiliate operates one of only two abortion clinics providing care in the state. “Every person has a constitutionally protected right to access abortion care, including from trusted medical providers here in Arkansas. Access to healthcare is a basic human right, and every person deserves care that gives them control over their own bodies, lives, and futures. For patients concerned about the legislature’s attempt to block their access to care, today’s decision sends a clear message: abortion must remain safe, legal, and accessible to Arkansans — and at Planned Parenthood, we will do everything in our power to keep it that way.”
“Arkansas politicians have spent more and more of their time inserting themselves into the exam room and in the process, have made the doctor-patient relationship the basis for political attacks,” said Dr. Janet Cathey, OB-GYN, Planned Parenthood Great Plains physician and a plaintiff in the case. “It is clear that they just want to shame, judge and stigmatize people who seek safe, legal abortion, and to put up more barriers to access it. Patients must be able to make their own personal medical decisions with the advice and expertise of their health care provider — not politicians. I’m thankful for today’s injunction that will allow me to continue caring for my patients.”
“We are grateful the court stepped in to block this ban, so that we can continue to provide vital reproductive health care to our patients,” said Lori Williams, clinical director at Little Rock Family Planning Services, a plaintiff in the case and one of only two abortion clinics providing care in the state. “The abortion care that we provide is health care, plain and simple, and continued access to this care is essential to the health and well-being of our patients. Little Rock Family Planning will always be there to fight for our patients’ right to get the care they need.”
The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, and ACLU of Arkansas cooperating counsel Brooke-Augusta Ware and Breean Walas on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Dr. Janet Cathey.
A blog on the case filing is here: https://www.aclu.org/news/reproductive-freedom/abortion-access-is-at-stake-but-we-will-do-everything-we-can-to-keep-our-clinics-doors-open
The complaint can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/complaint-little-rock-family-planning-services-et-al-v-larry-jegley-et-al
It’s another brilliant decision from a judge who’s issued many — about the safety of the procedure, the many reasons women might seek them, the danger of carrying pregnancies to term in some cases, the state’s mortality rate for mothers and children, the disproportionate impact on women of color and the poor. The court guidance is clear that the state may not intervene pre-viability, she said, and she notes a previous court decision striking down a 12-week abortion ban.
She said women would suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief.
Plaintiffs argue that the Act will inflict serious and irreparable harm on their patients by forcing them to remain pregnant against their will. Plaintiffs further argue that these harms would most substantially impact communities that already face a higher risk of death from pregnancy, including Black Arkansans, rural Arkansans, and pregnant people with the fewest means. According to plaintiffs, denying people the ability to terminate a pregnancy would increase preventable deaths and inflict physical, emotional, and financial injuries upon plaintiffs’ patients.
Defendants make no argument as to whether or not plaintiffs or plaintiffs’ patients will experience irreparable harm. Instead, defendants contend that “a decision to grant a preliminary injunction would ‘subject [the State] to ongoing irreparable harm.’” For now, this Court finds, based on the record before the Court at this stage of the proceeding, that the Act would cause imminent irreparable harm to plaintiffs and their patients. This Court has previously noted that “the State has no interest in enforcing laws that are unconstitutional” and that, therefore, an injunction preventing the State from enforcing unconstitutional acts “does not irreparably harm the State.”
The unhappiness from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, legislators, Republican political candidates and others will follow soon.