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Federal judge blocks Arkansas 12-week abortion ban

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas [official website] on Friday temporarily blocked enforcement of a law law banning abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy. US District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted a motion for preliminary injunction [AP report] against the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act [Act 301, PDF; materials], which bans abortions "of an unborn human individual whose heartbeat has been detected ... and is twelve (12) weeks or greater gestation." The law is being challenged [JURIST report] by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy websites] on behalf of two Little Rock abortion providers. Earlier this week Webber ruled that the lawsuit could proceed [JURIST report], rejecting a motion to dismiss. Friday's ruling means that the law, which was set to take effect August 1, cannot be enforced while the lawsuit is pending.

In March the Arkansas legislature voted to override [JURIST report] Governor Mike Beebe's veto of the Human Heartbeat Protection Act. In February the Arkansas legislature voted to override a veto [JURIST report] of a 20-week abortion ban. Numerous states have changed their abortion laws recently to impose more restrictions on the availability of abortions, leading to several legal challenges. In December a state judge in Georgia enjoined a law [JURIST report] banning doctors from providing abortions for women more than 20 weeks into gestation, which would have gone into effect in January. Montana voters in November passed a referendum [JURIST report] requiring facilities and doctors to inform parents of minors 16 to 48 hours before a planned abortion procedure on the minor. Also that month the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on a challenge to Arizona's law which, like Arkansas and Georgia's laws, bans abortions after 20 weeks. Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] also sued Texas [JURIST report] in October claiming that its law preventing state funding from going to any clinics affiliated with providing abortions violates another state law.

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