Lim­its on abor­tion blocked in Arkansas

A U.S. judge pre­vents the en­force­ment of four new re­stric­tions. The state will ap­peal.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION -

LIT­TLE ROCK, Ark. — A fed­eral judge has blocked Arkansas from en­forc­ing four new abor­tion re­stric­tions, in­clud­ing a ban on a com­mon sec­ond-trimester pro­ce­dure and a fe­tal re­mains law that op­po­nents say would es­sen­tially re­quire a part­ner’s con­sent be­fore a woman could get an abor­tion.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Kris­tine Baker is­sued a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion late Fri­day against the new re­stric­tions, three of which were set to take ef­fect Tues­day. The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and the Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights had chal­lenged the mea­sures, su­ing on be­half of Dr. Fred­er­ick Hop­kins, a Lit­tle Rock abor­tion provider.

The laws in­clude a ban on a pro­ce­dure known as di­la­tion and evac­u­a­tion. Abor­tion rights sup­port­ers con­tend that it’s the safest and most com­mon pro­ce­dure used in sec­ond-trimester abor­tions, but the state calls it bar­baric and “dis­mem­ber­ment abor­tion,” say­ing it can have emo­tional con­se­quences for the women who un­dergo it.

Sim­i­lar bans are in ef­fect in Mis­sis­sippi and West Vir­ginia and have been blocked by rul­ings in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Ok­la­homa.

The groups that brought the suit in the Arkansas case said the ban would have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact.

“The threat­ened harm to Dr. Hop­kins and the frac­tion of women for whom the Man­date is rel­e­vant clearly out­weighs what­ever dam­age or harm a pro­posed in­junc­tion may cause the State of Arkansas,” Baker wrote in her rul­ing.

“Arkansas women can feel a lit­tle re­lief to­day, know­ing that th­ese laws are blocked from tak­ing ef­fect,” Rita Sk­lar, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a state­ment. “In­stead of pro­tect­ing women’s health, Arkansas politi­cians have passed laws that defy de­cency and rea­son just to make it dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble for a woman to get an abor­tion.”

Judd Deere, a spokesman for state Atty. Gen. Les­lie Rut­ledge, said in a text mes­sage that Rut­ledge dis­agrees with the rul­ing and plans to ap­peal.

Baker’s rul­ing also halts a law that would im­pose re­stric­tions on the dis­posal of fe­tal tis­sue from abor­tions.

The plain­tiffs ar­gued that it could also block ac­cess by re­quir­ing no­ti­fi­ca­tion of a third party, such as the woman’s sex­ual part­ner or her par­ents, to de­ter­mine what hap­pens to the fe­tal re­mains.

The state has said the law doesn’t re­quire per­mis­sion or no­tice from those third par­ties be­fore an abor­tion and in­cludes sev­eral pro­vi­sions that en­sure no­tice or con­sent isn’t re­quired to dis­pose of the fe­tal re­mains.

Baker said the dis­posal law’s re­quire­ments would dis­suade doc­tors from per­form­ing abor­tions and cre­ate de­lays for women seek­ing the pro­ce­dure.

“For th­ese rea­sons, the Court is not con­vinced that im­port­ing the [law’s] com­plex re­quire­ments for au­tho­riza­tion ad­vances a pub­lic health goal,” Baker wrote.

Baker also blocked part of a law set to take ef­fect in Jan­uary that would ban abor­tions based solely on the fe­tus’ sex. The groups are chal­leng­ing the law’s re­quire­ment that a doc­tor per­form­ing the abor­tion first re­quest records re­lated to the en­tire preg­nancy his­tory of the woman.

“It will cause women to forgo abor­tion in Arkansas rather than risk dis­clo­sure to med­i­cal providers who they know op­pose abor­tion or who are fam­ily friends or neigh­bors,” Baker wrote.

The rul­ing came hours af­ter a fed­eral ap­peals court, lift­ing a pre­vi­ous Baker or­der, cleared the way for Arkansas to en­force a law that will limit how the abor­tion pill can be ad­min­is­tered.

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