Judge overturns Arkansas’s obviously unconstitutional 12-week abortion ban

fetal heartbeat image

(Image via ThinkProgress)

Last year, Arkansas state legislators overrode a governor’s veto in order to secure the dishonor of having the most blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban in the country. Guess what prize comes with that title? Having the courts strike it down. Surprise! 

A federal judge Friday struck down Arkansas’ attempt to ban most abortions beginning 12 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, saying viability, not a heartbeat, remains the key factor in determining whether abortions should be allowed.

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright last year had stopped enforcement of the law while she reviewed it, and on Friday she declared that it was unconstitutional. She cited previous court decisions that said abortions shouldn’t be restricted until after a fetus reaches viability, which is typically at 22 to 24 weeks.

No one could possibly have seen that one coming.

Arkansas’s bill inspired North Dakota to pass a similar one that would put the cut-off even earlier at six weeks–before most people even know they’re pregnant. That law was also quickly blocked by the courts. But while Arkansas and North Dakota are unique in using the fetal heartbeat to justify their bans, the many other states that have prohibited pre-viability abortions at 20-weeks on the basis of “fetal pain” are no less unconstitutional. As the judge explained in her ruling, ”The Supreme Court has … stressed that it is not the proper function of the legislature or the courts to place viability at a specific point in the gestation period.”

However, this wasn’t a total win: The judge upheld the law’s requirement that the patient receive an ultrasound and be told if a heartbeat is detected–for no medically necessary reason whatsoever.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

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One Comment

  1. Posted March 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Well that’s a relief, still it is unfortunate that as women we are constantly having to defend our rights to govern our own autonomy and to retain the legal rights to make all medical decisions concerning our reproduction. Needless to say this is becoming a frustrating and tedious battle here in the US. I am also tired of seeing state sanctioned rape, a.k.a. ultra-sound laws, passing through. This is disturbing beyond all levels of what is and is not appropriate legislative behavior for our politicians and government.

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