Judge Temporarily Halts Four Arkansas Abortion Laws

Dec 23, 2020

Supporters of Planned Parenthood gather in front of its Little Rock clinic in this file photo from Feb. 2018.
Credit Planned Parenthood Great Plains

A federal judge has blocked four laws restricting access to abortion in Arkansas just hours after they took effect.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Tuesday granted the request from abortion rights groups, issuing a two-week restraining order against the laws. Baker had previously put a halt to the laws in 2017, though a federal appeals court later vacated that ruling.

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said clinics were forced to cancel appointments and only provide medication abortion while the laws were temporarily in effect.

“Today, we got a preview of what would happen if these laws took effect permanently. It caused uncertainty about whether Arkansans can have access to abortion care and forced patients to be turned away, which is absolutely unacceptable,” said Jenny Ma, senior staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The four laws include a ban on a common second-trimester procedure, as well as a requirement to notify police if anyone under the age of 16 attempts to get an abortion. The laws had been on hold until Tuesday, one week after the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals declined to reconsider its decision allowing the laws to take effect.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge voiced her disapproval for the ruling in a statement, citing one of the laws which prohibits abortions based on the sex of the fetus.

"I am disappointed in Judge Baker's decision to again temporarily block Arkansas laws protecting young girls from predators and sex traffickers, protecting girls from sex-selective abortions, and prohibiting particularly barbaric abortion practices," Rutledge said. "Arkansas has repeatedly prevailed when it has appealed similar rulings by Judge Baker and will ultimately do so again."

Rutledge is expected to appeal Baker’s ruling to the same federal appeals court which allowed for the laws to go into effect. Baker’s order expires on Jan. 5 if she chooses not to extend it.