Court lifts ruling against 4 Arkansas abortion restrictions

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal appeals court has lifted a ruling blocking four Arkansas abortion restrictions, including a ban on a common second trimester procedure.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of appeals vacated the 2017 preliminary injunction issued against the restrictions.

The appeals court panel said the case needs to be reconsidered in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision.

The measures had been challenged by a Little Rock abortion provider.

Abortion rights groups said they’re looking at options to keep the laws blocked after August 28, when the appeals ruling takes effect.

The laws at issue, in this case, were passed to: 

  • Ban a safe and medically proven abortion method;
  • Require the patient to notify their partner or other family members and effectively allow them to block their abortion;
  • 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;
  • 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.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a response following today’s U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decision vacating the U.S. District Court’s injunction against four Arkansas abortion laws.

“Arkansas has taken a strong stance to protect the unborn from inhumane treatment,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “As Arkansas’s chief legal officer, I have always advocated for the lives of unborn children and will continue to defend our State’s legal right to protect the unborn. No defenseless baby should ever face the unimaginable and horrifying fate of death by dismemberment.”

The following statements were also made in response to the lifting of the blocked restrictrions:

ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project:

“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.”

ACLU of Arkansas legal director:

“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.” 

Staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“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.”

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