A new set of abortion restrictions in Arkansas that were meant to go into effect on Wednesday were temporarily blocked by a federal judge, marking a major victory for pro-choice advocates.
According to CNN, District Court Judge Kristine Baker issued the temporary injunction late Tuesday night, ruling that the laws “cause ongoing and imminent harm” to patients, and further arguing that the state has “no interest in enforcing laws that are unconstitutional.”
Judge Baker’s decision affects three different provisions that were on the table, according to the report.
One provision banned abortions at 18 weeks of pregnancy, which Baker blocked on the merits that it “prohibits nearly all abortions before viability,” and is thus unconstitutional.
Another provision was aimed at restricting abortions if the patient’s decision to end the pregnancy was based on the diagnosis that the fetus has Down Syndrome. CNN reports that Judge Baker ruled that that provision “is over-inclusive and under-inclusive because it prohibits nearly all pre-viability abortion based on Down syndrome when there is no record evidence that the Arkansas legislature has availed itself of alternative, less burdensome means to achieve the State’s asserted interest through regulations that do not unconstitutionally prohibit a woman’s right to choose but instead are aimed at ensuring a thoughtful and informed choice.”
The final provision mandated that abortion providers had to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology, which Baker dismissed as having “no discernible medical benefit in light of the realities of abortion care, training and practice in Arkansas and across the country.” Judge Baker also pointed out that had that provision been made into law, Arkansas would have no surgical abortion provider.
The state argued that the laws were “common sense,” with Arkansas’ attorney general Leslie Rutledge claiming in court documents that “Each regulation benefits society, mothers, and the medical profession in a myriad of ways while imposing no real [or legally cognizable] burden on abortion access.”
Still, activist and advocacy groups celebrated Baker’s ruling, with Holly Dickson, the legal director and interim director of ACLU of Arkansas emphasizing the organization’s relief at the decision.
“Personal medical decisions are just that — personal — and politicians have no business barging into people’s private decisions, shutting down clinics and blocking people from care that they need,” Dickson said.