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Court Blocks Four Arkansas Abortion Restrictions

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The ruling late last week prevents family members from potentially having a say in blocking a patient's abortion.

A federal court late last week issued an injunction preliminarily blocking four new abortion restrictions passed by Arkansas Republicans that were set to take effect at the end of July. 

The ruling follows a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Arkansas. The suit challenges a ban on second trimester abortion care. Similar restrictions on second trimester abortions have passed in Kansas and Oklahoma, but courts have blocked them from taking effect. In Louisiana, the state agreed to delay enforcement of a similar ban while a case challenging the ban is litigated. The ACLU has successfully blocked a similar ban in Alabama while the Center and Planned Parenthood just filed a new challenge to a similar measure in Texas.

The lawsuit also challenges three other restrictions passed this year in Arkansas’ GOP-dominated legislature. One restriction would prohibit a patient from obtaining abortion care until their physician has spent an undefined amount of “time and effort” to obtain medical records relating to their “entire pregnancy history.” That restriction would require disclosure of a patient’s abortion to every health care professional from whom they have received pregnancy care during their current pregnancy as well as any previous pregnancy, according to allegations in the lawsuit. Advocates argue this provision unnecessarily causes an indefinite delay for patients in need of an abortion. 

The lawsuit challenges a provision that would force doctors to notify a patient’s family members about their right to participate in the disposition of tissue from the patient’s abortion or miscarriage. Advocates claim that restriction could effectively provide family members the right to block a patient’s abortion. 

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The lawsuit also takes on a measure that advocates argues violates the privacy rights of patients younger than 17 by disclosing their names and information about their health-care needs to local law enforcement.

“Arkansas politicians made it their mission to rob women of their health care options this year,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement following the ruling. 

Arkansas passed the highest number of measures restricting abortion access this year, the Center for Reproductive Rights said.

“We’re pleased to know these insulting, harmful, and unconstitutional laws will be enjoined while we fight them in court,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. 

The measures were all slated to take effect this week except the medical records mandate, which was slated to take effect on January 1.  All the challenged measures will remain blocked while the litigation continues.

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