Federal Court Blocks Four Arkansas Anti-Abortion Laws Hours After They Took Effect

The Laws Would Have Cut Off Most Abortion Access in the State

December 22, 2020 7:30 pm

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In response to litigation from the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued an order blocking four anti-abortion laws in Arkansas hours after they took effect. While the laws were in effect today, clinics were forced to cancel appointments and were only able to offer medication abortion.

Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request for en banc rehearing of an Aug. 2020 decision that paved the way for the abortion restrictions to go into effect. The ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights then asked the district court to block the laws that would completely prevent many people from obtaining abortion care, create intrusive and stigmatizing requirements that violate patients’ privacy rights, and leave the state with even more limited access to abortion. The litigation is supported by several medical experts and five previous Arkansas abortion patients who spoke to the devastating impact the laws would have if enforced.

“Access to abortion in Arkansas has been preserved — for now,” said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney in the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are gratified that the court recognized the irretrievable harm these laws would cause to patients, and that it stepped in quickly. We have a fight ahead of us to ensure that no one is turned away, punished, or humiliated when trying to exercise their right to abortion in Arkansas — and we are not backing down.”

“We’re relieved these harmful and unconstitutional restrictions have once again been blocked by the courts,” said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “These laws would decimate access to abortion in Arkansas at a time when families are already struggling to get care. It shouldn’t take a court order to force Arkansas politicians to respect the basic human rights of the people they serve. That’s why we’ll continue to fight in the courts, in the capitol, and in communities to defend the right of every Arkansan to make their own personal medical decisions.”

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

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers LLP on behalf of Frederick W. Hopkins, M.D., M.P.H. and Little Rock Family Planning Services.

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