A federal judge blocked Arkansas on Tuesday from enforcing a new law that would protect thousands of unborn babies by banning almost all abortions in the state.
The Independent reports federal Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the law, which is scheduled to go into effect July 28.
Baker described the law as “categorically unconstitutional” because it prohibits abortions before the unborn baby is viable.
The Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act (Senate Bill 6), which passed the state legislature by a strong majority in March, bans all abortions in the state. It allows exceptions if the mother’s life or health are at risk. Abortionists who violate the ban would face up to 10 years in prison, but women would not be punished for violating the law.
The law could protect nearly 3,000 unborn babies from abortions in Arkansas every year.
Citing Roe v. Wade, Baker said the law likely will be struck down as a violation of “personal liberty,” the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports.
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“This right is grounded in the right to privacy rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty, which was found to be ‘broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy,’” she ruled.
A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told the International Business Times that she was disappointed by Baker’s decision. She said the attorney general will review the decision to “consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit challenging the pro-life law. Responding Tuesday, ACLU attorney Meagan Burrows said she hopes Baker’s decision will discourage other states from passing pro-life laws.
“The court’s ruling today should serve as a stark reminder to anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas and other states that they cannot strip people of their right to make the deeply personal decision about whether to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy,” Burrows said.
But state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who sponsored the legislation, said Arkansas will fight for unborn babies’ right to life all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Where is the conscience of the court? Judge Kristine Baker never fails to strike down pro-life laws in Arkansas,” Rapert told the Democrat Gazette. “She’s basing her decision on the same type of claptrap we always hear which ends up in the killing of unborn babies in our state and in the nation.”
Here’s more from the report:
Asked if he sees any validity to the arguments of opponents of the ban, Rapert was unequivocal.
“No,” Rapert said. “There is no valid viewpoint to kill an unborn child, except to save the life of the mother.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN in March that overturning Roe v. Wade is one of the goals of the law.
“[The law] is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” Hutchinson said. “… And so I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade – that was the intent of it. I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case but we’ll see.”
Since 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court has forced states to legalize abortion on demand under Roe v. Wade. States that want to protect unborn babies may only do so once they reach the point of viability, currently about 22 weeks. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.
Arkansas and more than a dozen other states are challenging that precedent through total abortion bans, laws that prohibit abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable (about six weeks), laws banning discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with disabilities, and laws banning abortions after the first trimester.
Recently, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a Mississippi case and consider “whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortion are unconstitutional.” The state law at issue in the case prohibits abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Polls indicate that most Americans want stronger protections for unborn babies. Gallup has been asking about the legality of abortions by trimester for decades. Its polls have found steady, strong opposition to abortions in the second and third trimesters. Additionally, a 2019 Hill-HarrisX poll found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive.