Federal judge temporarily blocks three Arkansas abortion laws
© WikiMedia (James McNellis)
Federal judge temporarily blocks three Arkansas abortion laws

Judge Kristine Baker of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on Tuesday temporarily blocked the state of Arkansas, and its officials, from enforcing three recently passed acts pertaining to abortion.

The three acts, Act 700, Act 619, and Act 493, all relate to women’s reproductive rights and are the focus of ongoing litigation in the case of Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Rutledge.

Act 700 would require that a physician be licensed to practice medicine in the state of Arkansas and be board-certified or board-eligible in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Act 619 would prevent mothers from having an abortion because their unborn child may have Down syndrome. Act 493 would prohibit abortions after 18 weeks gestation except in cases of medical emergency, rape and incest.

However, the temporary restraining order will prevent these acts from going into effect. In the ruling, Baker analyzed each act under the undue burden framework:

Accordingly, for those women to whom Act 493 is an obstacle, it is an insurmountable impediment to such women receiving an abortion. Therefore, Act 493 is unconstitutional.

[F]or a large fraction of women seeking pre-viability abortions in Arkansas ‘solely on the basis’ of: (1) a test ‘indicating’ Down syndrome; (2) a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome; or (3) ‘[a]ny other reason to believe’ the ‘unborn child’ has Down syndrome, Act 619 ‘places a ‘substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice.’

Because Act 700’s OBGYN requirement likely does not ‘confer[] benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access [to abortion] that [it] imposes, the Court finds that plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their due process challenge that Act 700’s OBGYN requirement is unconstitutional.

The ruling comes as many states across the country, including Georgia and North Dakota, have enacted recent legislation attempting to narrow Roe v. Wade.