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Attorneys general from 15 states and DC file brief in case against Arkansas abortion laws

[JURIST] The attorneys general from 15 states and Washington, DC, filed an amicus brief [text, PDF] in the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] in support of a challenge to four abortion laws enacted by Arkansas in early 2017.

The AGs represent the New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai'i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia Washington and the District of Columbia.

The amicus brief states that the laws create a "substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion." The first law [Act 45 text, PDF] outlaws the use of the dilation and excavation procedure that is typically used for second trimester abortions. The AGs argue that the law will subject women to significant health risks because the use of the dilation and excavation method is the safest method for second trimester abortions.

The second law [Act 733 Text, PDF] requires a physician to spend reasonable time and effort to obtain the medical records of the pregnant woman in order to ensure that the abortion is not a sex-selective abortion. The AGs argue that Arkansas has failed to show how the medical records can show if a woman has a pattern of sex-selective abortion and the law does not advance a state interest. It is also argued that the law will discourage those who "fear of disclosure of their private medical history."

The third law [Act 1018 text, PDF] requires that any abortions obtained for minors who are 16 years of age or younger be reported to the minor's local police department and that all embryonic or fetal tissue be preserved as evidence for a potential investigation and prosecution for rape. It is argued that due to the fact that there are many situations in which sexual relationships among 14 to 16 year-olds are consensual, the law does not further a state interest.

The fourth law [Act 603 text, PDF] would require that the deposition of embryonic and fetal tissue follow the same law that governs disposition of the remains of a deceased person. It is argued that the law simply extends the disposal time of fetal tissue from the currently required 48 hours to five days and can require notification to parents even if a judicial bypass has been previously granted for a minor.

Abortion laws in the US have received legal challenges in many states in recent years. In February 2017 the Florida Supreme Court blocked [JURIST report] enforcement of a law that required a woman wait 24 hours after receiving counseling from a physician before she can have an abortion. In July 2016 the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against an Arizona law that required medical providers to "segregate taxpayer dollars from abortions, including the use of taxpayer dollars for any overhead expenses attributable to abortions" in order to remain a part of Arizona's medicaid program. In March 2016 a federal judge blocked [JURIST report] an Arkansas law that restricted the use of abortion pills.

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