[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday struck down [opinion, PDF] abortion restrictions in Arkansas, ruling that the 12-week limit on seeking an abortion places an unconstitutional burden on women within the state. The restrictions included tests to determine if there was a detectible heartbeat, prohibition of abortions after 12 weeks of gestation, and informed disclosures of the existence of a heartbeat as well as the probability of bringing the fetus to term. Plaintiffs in the case argued that a fetus is not viable until 24 weeks’ gestation, and thus, the court held that regulations inhibiting a woman from undergoing an abortion before that time limit places an undue burden on a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy before viability. “A regulation is an undue burden if it has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
Abortion waiting periods and reproductive rights issues [JURIST backgrounder] have been heated topics throughout the US. Earlier this month Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official website] signed House Bill 1409 into law extending the mandatory [JURIST report] waiting period for women seeking an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. In April Alabama state representative Teri Collins proposed a bill to ban abortion [JURIST report] once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Also in April Kansas Governor Sam Brownback [official website] signed a bill [press release] that bans all forms of dismemberment abortion unless necessary to protect the life or health of the mother. In March Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill [JURIST report] that requires abortion providers in the state to tell women that they can reverse the effects of a drug-induced abortion, in addition to barring women from buying any healthcare plan through the federal marketplace that includes coverage for abortions. Also in March the West Virginia Legislature overrode [JURIST report] the state governor’s veto, passing a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks.