LITTLE ROCK, AR – The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a challenge to Arkansas’ 18-week abortion ban in federal court yesterday. The plaintiffs hope to block the law before it is implemented on July 24 by targeting three particularly egregious restrictions: the ban on abortion starting at 18 weeks of pregnancy, the ban based on a woman’s reason for seeking care, and the measure which prohibits physicians who are not board certified or elibible in obstetrics or gynecology from performing legal abortions.
“These dangerously extreme bans and restrictions are part of a nationwide effort to criminalize abortion, while punishing providers and shaming families seeking care,” ACLU of Arkansas legal director Holly Dickson said in a statement. “Personal medical decisions should be made by families in consultation with their health providers, not dictated by politicians trying to force people to remain pregnant against their will and against medical advice. Today, we’re challenging three plainly unconstitutional laws that would completely outlaw abortions for many Arkansans and target health providers with restrictions that would push care even further out of reach.”
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Little Rock Family Planning Services, and on behalf physicians who administer services at these centers. The plaintiffs argue that the law is unconstitutional, and unreasonably bans abortions performed before a fetus is viable.
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project staff attorney Meagan Burrows noted that the Arkansas ban places ideology and political opportunism above the interests of women’s health. “For years, anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas have passed medically unnecessary restrictions as part of a national strategy to push abortion out of reach entirely and stigmatize reproductive health care,” Burrows said in a statement. “We will not stand by and allow politicians to attack the health and well-being of Arkansans for their own political gain.”
Arkansas’ Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the 18-week ban into law in March.