Arkansas Judge Temporarily Blocks Abortion Restrictions

An Arkansas federal judge has temporarily blocked abortion restrictions that were approved by the state's legislature and were set to take effect on Wednesday. The laws could have caused the closure of the state's only surgical abortion clinic.

The 159-page order, which blocks the state from enforcing the proposed laws, was implemented just before midnight on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker.

This injunction is seen as a victory to opponents of the laws, who argued that they were not medically necessary and violated Supreme Court precedent.

According to CNN, Baker concluded that the laws would "cause ongoing and imminent irreparable harm" to patients and that the state, "has no interest in enforcing laws that are unconstitutional."

Abortion Protest
A group of anti-abortion protesters and a group of pro-choice protesters outside a clinic in Little Rock, Arkansas. (Greg Smith/Corbis via Getty Images)

The proposed laws were threefold, with one essentially barring abortions starting after 18 weeks of pregnancy. Baker opposed the provision since it would "prohibit nearly all abortions before viability."

Another provision barred providers from performing an abortion if the woman wanted to terminate the pregnancy if the fetus had Down syndrome. The third required providers to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology, a provision the judge said, "provides no discernible medical benefit in the light of the realities of abortion care, training, and practice in Arkansas and across the county." If this particular provision had gone forward, it would have left the state with no surgical abortion provider.

According to Little Rock's KATV, Dr. Linda Prine, who performs abortions in New York City, told the court that the proposed restrictions would require women to travel out of state to get an abortion, a delay that could increase risk.

"Women would die because of this law," Prine testified, according to KATV.

The clinic in question, the Little Rock Family Planning Services, is backed by the ACLU of Arkansas and Planned Parenthood. Lawyers from both organizations argued in court papers on behalf of the clinic:

"In recent years, Arkansas has engaged in a targeted campaign against abortion care and the women who need it, enacting more than 25 laws aimed at obstructing and interfering with a woman's access to abortion care in the state, including at least 12 enacted in 2019 alone."

These proposed laws by the Arkansas legislature are just the latest in a wave of states hoping to restrict access to abortion, such as Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama. The Supreme Court is considering whether to take a similar case from Louisiana for their next term.