Advocacy groups sue Arkansas over abortion ban

Advocacy groups sue Arkansas over abortion ban
© Greg Nash

Advocacy groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging a near-total ban on abortions in Arkansas.

Led by the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, the lawsuit argues that the law is the "culmination of a nearly decade long campaign by the Arkansas legislature to eliminate legal abortion" in the state.

The Arkansas ban, signed into law by Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonArkansas governor to ask state legislature to allow masks in schools Judge orders Arkansas to resume pandemic unemployment benefits What you need to know about the new COVID-19 surge MORE (R) in March and scheduled to take effect on July 28, prohibits abortion in nearly every case and imposes stiff criminal penalties on doctors for providing care surrounding the procedure.

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The lawsuit says the ban is a "direct affront to almost half a century of Supreme Court precedent."

According to Hutchinson and abortion opponents, that was the point of the new law.

"It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now," Hutchinson told CNN in an interview shortly after he signed the legislation into law.

Hutchinson said he signed the measure "because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. That was the intent of it."

Once the law takes effect, abortions will be permitted in the state only to save the life of the mother. The statute does not provide exceptions for rape or incest.

This lawsuit comes as the Supreme Court recently announced that it will hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with only narrow exceptions.

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Supreme Court precedent prohibits states from banning abortion before fetal viability, which occurs around 24 weeks.

Abortion opponents are hopeful that the 6-3 conservative majority on the court will chip away at, if not directly overturn, the protections in Roe v. Wade.

The Arkansas case could provide justices with another opportunity to rule on abortion. The Mississippi and Arkansas laws are among a slew of anti-abortion measures passed by states recently that were designed to challenge Roe v. Wade and advance to the Supreme Court.

If the landmark 1973 ruling is overturned, abortion rights advocates warn there would be cascading effect at the state level, where anti-abortion activists have been carefully preparing for the possibility of a major ruling in their favor.

More than a dozen states in the past two years have passed bills that ban abortion at various stages of pregnancy, though all of those laws were blocked in court, and none are in effect.