A federal judge blocked an Arkansas abortion law Tuesday, as she gets set to hear a challenge to its constitutionality. The law, set to take effect July 28, bans nearly all abortions in the state.
While there is an exception for situations where the mother’s life is in danger, exceptions do not cover cases of rape or incest.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker called the law “categorically unconstitutional” since it would ban the procedure before the fetus is considered viable.
“Since the record at this stage of the proceedings indicates that women seeking abortions in Arkansas face an imminent threat to their constitutional rights, the court concludes that they will suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief,” Judge Baker wrote.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood hailed Baker’s decision. “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,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement. Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said Baker’s decision “demonstrates that the court fully understands the harmful and immediate effects this law would have on Arkansans.”
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican whose office defended the law, was disappointed with Baker’s decision, according to a spokeswoman.
“She will be reviewing it to consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn,” spokeswoman Stephanie Sharp said in an email.
Arkansas enacted 20 abortion restrictions this year. That’s the most in a single state since Louisiana adopted the same number in 1978. That’s according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports reproductive rights.
Arkansas already had some of the strictest abortion measures in the country. Two years ago, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure that would ban abortions if the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision was overturned. Another measure Hutchinson signed in 2019 is on hold, due to a legal challenge. That measure would ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy.
On Tuesday night, Gov. Hutchinson said he hoped the case over Arkansas’ near-total ban would make it to the Supreme Court.
“This legislation had the dual purpose of protecting Arkansas’ unborn and challenging long-standing Supreme Court precedent regarding abortion,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “I hope the Supreme Court will ultimately accept this case for review.”