Judge blocks Arkansas abortion restrictions

Judge blocks Arkansas abortion restrictions
© Getty Images

A federal judge in Arkansas blocked three new abortion restrictions late Tuesday, just hours before they were scheduled to take effect. 

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted the temporary restraining order, blocking the state from enforcing the restrictions for 14 days. 

ADVERTISEMENT

One of the laws, passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, would have banned abortions in most cases after 18 weeks of pregnancy. 

Another law would have banned physicians from performing abortions if the mother asks for one solely because the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome. 

The last law blocked by the judge requires that physicians providing abortions board certified in obstetrics and gynecology — a requirement that likely would have caused the state's only surgical abortion clinic to shut its doors.

Little Rock Family Planning Services — the surgical abortion clinic — and Planned Parenthood raised a legal challenge against the restrictions, filing a lawsuit on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas.

“We’re relieved that these bans and restrictions have been blocked from taking effect and we’re determined to see them struck down for good,” the ACLU of Arkansas tweeted early Wednesday. “Personal medical decisions are just that — personal — and politicians have no business barging into people’s private decisions, shutting down clinics and blocking people from care they need.”

One abortion restriction that wasn’t challenged is taking effect Wednesday and ups the waiting period from 48 hours to 72 hours before a woman can get an abortion.

The judge wrote in her ruling that Arkansas women seeking abortions would face an "imminent threat to their constitutional rights" and "suffer irreparable harm" if the laws were allowed to take effect. 

The decision marks the latest in a string of legal challenges in states such as Alabama, Georgia and Missouri, which have passed restrictive abortion laws in recent months. 

In Missouri, the state’s lone abortion clinic is fighting to stay open. If it closes, it will be the first state in nearly 50 years to not have an abortion clinic since the passage of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. 

Updated at 9:17 a.m.