Arkansas Abortion Restrictions Challenged by ACLU

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights today filed suit to block four Arkansas laws that would heavily restrict or outright ban abortion in the state.

The federal lawsuit challenges four new provisions in Arkansas law that would:

  • Ban a safe and medically proven abortion method, making abortion care completely unavailable for some women as a pregnancy progresses
  • Require notification of the woman’s partner or other family members and effectively allow them to block her abortion
  • Create new, needless, and burdensome requirements to report a young woman’s abortion to local police in a way that invades her and her family’s medical privacy — on top of the already robust and appropriate 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 women’s care.

The first three provisions are set to go into effect on July 30, 2017, and the fourth takes effect January 1, 2018.

Another Arkansas law, which targets abortion providers for medically unnecessary overregulation, was also challenged today in a lawsuit by Planned Parenthood Great Plains and the ACLU.

The legal team had the following reactions:

Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project: “Arkansas politicians have passed extreme abortion bans that put their political agenda ahead of women’s health. No more. We’re fighting back.”

Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas: “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. They’ve created burdensome bureaucratic hurdles that invade patient privacy.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights: “Arkansas politicians have devised new and cruel ways to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion this year—and we’re fighting back. From essentially banning abortion in the second trimester to violating women’s privacy, these measures represent a new low. The Supreme Court made clear one year ago in Whole Woman’s Health that politicians can’t stand between women and their constitutional rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to use the full force of the law to ensure these rights are protected and respected for all women.”

Click here for more about this case.

Click here to read the complaint.

After learning of the lawsuit, Family Council issued this news release: 

On Tuesday the ACLU and Planned Parenthood filed legal challenges against five pro-life laws recently passed by the Arkansas Legislature.  

Family Council President Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “These lawsuits are almost unbelievable. The ACLU is challenging laws designed to do things like help protect underage girls and ensure doctors know a woman’s medical history before performing an abortion. Planned Parenthood is challenging laws that hold abortion clinics to reasonable health and safety standards. The fact the ACLU and Planned Parenthood would challenge laws like these shows they are severely out of touch with the rest of Arkansas.”  

Cox noted that some of these laws passed the Arkansas Legislature with virtually no controversy. “Most of these are commonsense pieces of legislation that protect the health and safety of women. Act 733 requires the doctor to request the medical records of the pregnant woman before performing an abortion on her. I think most Arkansans would be shocked to think a doctor might perform an abortion without knowing the woman’s medical history, but the ACLU is challenging this provision in the law.  

“Act 1018 made a small change to a law passed two years ago. It simply requires doctors to file a report with the State Crime Lab after performing an abortion on a girl under seventeen. It’s designed to catch perpetrators of human trafficking and incest. Act 603 requires aborted fetal remains to be buried or cremated like miscarried fetal remains. It’s tragic the ACLU and others would have so little regard for the health and safety of women as to challenge these good laws.”  

Cox said Planned Parenthood is challenging a law regarding licensure and inspection of abortion clinics. “This law simply ensures abortion clinics are properly licensed, inspected, and regulated. Courts have ruled repeatedly that abortion clinics can be regulated under public health and safety laws. That’s what this legislation does.”  

Cox noted the ACLU is also challenging Act 45 that prohibits some abortion procedures in which an unborn baby is physically dismembered, saying, “Over the years, abortion procedures have changed. Some of the procedures that were fairly common years ago would be illegal and unthinkable today. Act 45 of 2017 is simply another chapter in that story. It generally prohibits one particular abortion procedure in which the unborn baby is physically dismembered, but does not affect other much more common abortion procedures.” 

Cox said he expects a pro-life victory from these lawsuits. “I believe these laws can withstand a legal challenge. However, anytime someone challenges a pro-life law, there’s always a pro-life victory in the ruling. When the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals struck part of Arkansas’ fetal heartbeat law a few years ago, some of the findings in the ruling actually made it easier for us to pass more pro-life legislation in 2015. I believe these lawsuits will simply pave the way for even better pro-life laws in the future—no matter how the courts rule.”

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