Federal judge blocks ban on nearly all abortions in Arkansas

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked Arkansas from enforcing a strict new law that would ban nearly all abortions, a decision that comes as many states with Republican-controlled legislatures are trying to force the issue before a newly reshaped Supreme Court.
Arkansas is one of several states that have passed abortion restrictions challenging the constitutional right to the procedure established in Roe v. Wade. Judges have temporarily blocked laws restricting abortions in states including Ohio, Arkansas and Texas.
If the Supreme Court overturned Roe, abortion would be likely to become illegal in 22 states. In May, justices agreed to hear a case concerning a Mississippi law in the court’s next term, giving the court’s conservative majority an opportunity to place new constraints on abortion rights.
On Tuesday, US District Judge Kristine G Baker said that the Arkansas law, which would have banned abortions in all cases except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency, would cause “imminent irreparable harm” to doctors and their patients.
The decision was made in a case brought by Little Rock Family Planning Services, Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Janet Cathey, a gynecologist and obstetrician in Little Rock, who was representing her staff and her patients.
The law, which Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed in March and was scheduled to take effect on July 28, states that a “person shall not purposely perform or attempt to perform an abortion except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.”
Under the law, a doctor who performed an abortion would have been punished with up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $100,000.
Meagan Burrows, a staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project and one of the lawyers who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the law “would disproportionately harm people of color, people who live in rural areas and people with low incomes.”
Burrows said that the court’s ruling “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.”

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