Judge blocks new restrictions on abortions in Arkansas
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 effectively require a partner’s consent before a woman could get an abortion.
U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction late Friday night 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 say it is 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 court rulings in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. A ban approved in Texas will take effect in September and is also being challenged in court. The groups 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.
The groups praised Baker’s ruling, saying the laws would have effectively banned abortion for many women.
Baker’s ruling also halts a law that would impose new 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.