Wednesday, May 27, 2015

8th Circuit Court strikes down Arkansas's 12-week abortion ban

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 9:24 AM

The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court's decision striking down the ban on most abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy adopted over Gov. Mike Beebe's veto in 2013. 

Here's the opinion.
This was the work of Sen. Jason Rapert. It was predictably a loser in court, but the legislature and the attorney pressed ahead with a defense of the law.

Doctors who provide abortions brought the suit against various state officials. Said the 8th Circuit:

By banning abortions after 12 weeks’ gestation, the Act prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy at a point before viability. Because the State made no attempt to refute the plaintiffs’ assertions of fact, the district court’s summary judgment order must be
affirmed.

The decision came from a three-judge pane that included Judges Lavenski Smith and Robert Shepherd of Arkansas. It noted that the definition of viability had changed since Roe v. Wade and fetuses survive at earlier ages. But the state presented no refutation of testimony that no child could survive at 12 weeks, when detection of a heart beat and a gestational age of that length banned most abortions under Rapert's law.The judges expressed seeming regret at not leaving such determinations to the state legislature, but concluded:

This case underscores the importance of the parties, particularly the state, developing the record in a meaningful way so as to present a real opportunity for the court to examine viability, case by case, as viability steadily moves back towards conception.

The decision permanently enjoins enforcement of the law. Arkansas has a 20-week abortion ban. It has not yet been challenged in court, though such bans have fallen in court challenges in other states.

UPDATE: This response from a spokesman for Attorney General leslie Rutledge:

“The Attorney General is reviewing the opinion from the 8th Circuit and will evaluate how to proceed.”

So, for the moment, the possibility of a fruitless appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court remains alive.

From the Center for Reproductive Freedom:

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Today’s ruling affirms that safely and legally ending a pregnancy remains a protected constitutional right in this country.

“Women should not have to run to court in state after state, year after year to protect their constitutional rights from these politically motivated attacks. The Constitution and the courts are clear: A woman’s right to decide for herself whether to continue or safely and legally end a pregnancy does not change depending on what state she happens to live in."

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