The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld an order on Tuesday blocking Arkansas laws that ban abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy and abortions due to a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.
Little Rock Family Planning Services sued the state in 2019. The clinic challenged the abortion restrictions in Act 493, which banned abortions after 18 weeks, and in Act 619, which banned abortions on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis. The clinic argued that the restrictions were unconstitutional based on Supreme Court precedent. The Supreme Court held in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that there cannot be restrictions on abortion until a fetus is viable, which is typically at 24 weeks.
The state argued that the restriction on pre-viability abortion was not absolute. The state also cited Supreme Court precedent, as Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld a requirement for parental consent and Gonzales v. Carhart upheld restrictions on specific abortion procedures.
Two of the judges on the unanimous three-judge panel concurred. The concurring judges wrote that the Supreme Court should reconsider its prior decision on the issue due to the interest in the protection of unborn children and Arkansas’ “compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge stated that she will further review the court’s “decision in order to uphold Arkansas’s laws which protect the lives of the unborn and the health of mothers.”
Kendall Turner of O’Melveny & Myers, a lawyer for the clinic, stated that they were pleased with the court’s decision. Turner explained that the decision protects the constitutional right to access abortion care.