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Federal judge blocks near-total abortion ban in Arkansas
New Arkansas law would prohibit providers from performing abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency” and makes no exceptions for cases of rape, incest or abnormalities fetal. Those who break the law face fines of up to $ 100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the bill in March and has been adamant about his goal of revising abortion rights. He told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” later in the month: “I signed it because it’s a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” the court ruling Supreme Court of 1973 which legalized the procedure nationwide.

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, and Planned Parenthood, which have filed a lawsuit against the Arkansas ban with other abortion rights groups, applauded the order.

Arkansas has pursued a clearly unconstitutional law that would disproportionately harm people of color, people living in rural areas, and people with low incomes – who already face significant barriers to accessing health care and higher risks of pregnancy-related death, “said Meagan Burrows, lawyer with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Today’s court ruling should serve as a stark reminder to anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas and other states that they cannot deprive people of their right to make the deeply personal decision to be made. abort or continue a pregnancy. We will continue to fight to ensure that abortion remains legal in Arkansas and that the state’s unconstitutional ban is overturned for good. “

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office has expressed disappointment.

“The Attorney General is disappointed with Judge Baker’s decision today,” spokeswoman Stephanie Sharp said. “She will review it to consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn child.”

Baker’s order marks the second state abortion ban enacted in 2021 to be blocked by a court, after another federal judge temporarily blocked Carolina’s so-called heartbeat ban. South in February.
Further litigation is expected in light of the wave of abortion restrictions emanating from conservative state legislatures this year. So far in 2021, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho and Texas have codified bans on abortion at the onset of a fetal heartbeat, Arkansas and Oklahoma have enacted bans almost total abortion and Montana has banned the procedure at 20 weeks. None of the bills came into force, either because of legal actions or subsequent coming into force dates.
The ACLU, the Arkansas ACLU, the Planned Parenthood Federation of American, and several abortion providers filed a lawsuit against Arkansas’ new law in May, citing Rutledge’s opinion that it should enter. effective July 28.

The law “is just as unconstitutional as any other pre-viability abortion bans overturned before it,” the ACLU wrote, highlighting Hutchinson’s comments on CNN.

“This will inflict immediate and irreparable harm on the plaintiffs’ patients by flagrantly violating their constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, threatening their health and well-being and forcing them to continue their pregnancy against their mother. willing “, they added. .

The court challenge and temporary blockade of Arkansas law also comes after the United States Supreme Court agreed to take up a key abortion case in the next term over a controversial Mississippi law that would ban the Most abortions after 15 weeks, rekindling a potentially major challenge for Roe v. Wade to the Conservative Majority Court.

Burrows acknowledged in an interview with CNN ahead of the blocking of the measure that the judge could wait to decide to permanently block Arkansas law until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on the Mississippi ban, most likely next year.

“This is sort of the time that states like Arkansas and the anti-abortion politicians in those states have been waiting,” she said. “But as it stands, Roe v. Wade and his clear line rule that states cannot outright ban abortion before viability is still the law of the land. And all the lower courts – district courts and appellate courts – are bound by this unless and until the Supreme Court changes course.

CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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