LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge granted a request Friday to temporarily block enforcement of a new Arkansas law that bans most abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy.
US District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted a motion for preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights brought on behalf of two Little Rock abortion providers.
The state’s Republican-led Legislature enacted the 12-week abortion ban in March, overriding a veto from Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat.
The decision means the ban, which was set to take effect in August, cannot be enforced while the suit is pending. A decision about the law’s constitutionality is expected.
The lawsuit says the ban is unconstitutional and clearly contradicts the US Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Arkansas’ 12-week ban is tied to the date when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by an abdominal ultrasound.
The measure includes exemptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother, and highly lethal fetal disorders.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, names members of the Arkansas State Medical Board as defendants because the board is responsible for licensing medical professionals.
ACLU lawyer Bettina Brownstein was pleased with the ruling.
“I think it’s likely that we’ll succeed on the merit, that the statute will be declared unconstitutional and will never go into effect,” Brownstein said.
Arkansas’ attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed was rejected by Wright days ago.
“The court finds that the plaintiffs have established a threat of irreparable harm to themselves and to their patients,” she ruled.
The state has said the groups do not have standing to challenge the ban since it will not take effect until August. But Wright disagreed in an order earlier this week, saying the threat of enforcement was enough to challenge the law.
“When there is a heartbeat, there is life,” said a lead sponsor of the 12-week ban, state Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican. “We must have a more rational and a more humane policy in abortion in our nation.”
— ASSOCIATED PRESS