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Arkansas Bans Abortions After 12 Weeks’ Gestation

(Updated) Preliminary injunction will prevent ban from taking effect until courts decide on its constitutionality.

Update (May 21): The New York Times reports that a federal judge has "temporarily blocked enforcement of [the abortion ban in Arkansas] saying the law was likely to be declared unconstitutional."

Arkansas prohibits abortions after the twelfth week of pregnancy, making it the second-most restrictive state ban in the country. North Dakota, which bans the procedure after as little as six weeks, is also facing legal action against it.


Update (Mar. 12): The New York Timesreports on how the ban has inspired pro-life activists in other states to pursue similar restrictions, but "traditional leaders of the anti-abortion movement, like National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic Church, think such laws will quickly be overturned in federal courts."


Overriding governor's vetoes, the Arkansas state legislature voted to bar most abortions after 12 weeks' gestation—the point at which fetal heartbeats can be detected with abdominal ultrasounds.

"I feel grateful that people recognize that the abortion policy of this nation has not made abortions rare," said state Sen. Jason Rapert, chief sponsor of the bill. "In Arkansas, we have now recognized the need for a more balanced policy, and Roe v. Wade has allowed us this option. I am so proud of my fellow legislators for standing up and protecting the lives of unborn children. When there is a heartbeat, there is life."

Last week, the legislature voted to restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. After the legislature defeating the governor's veto (which requires a simple majority vote), the law immediately went into effect. The 12-week limit goes into effect this summer. Opponents have promised to sue to block the ban, and Gov. Mike Beebe cited the costs of fighting such a lawsuit as the key reason for his veto. But Rapert says the state doesn't have to carry the cost, since he arranged pro bono representation from Liberty Counsel.

There's some discussion on whether National Right to Life supported the bill. "National Right to Life is working to pass this," NRL president Carol Tobias said in a fundraising letter this week, apparently referring to the 20-week limit.

But NRL general counsel James Bopp Jr. was more critical in an interview with The New York Times. "As much as we would like to protect the unborn at that point, it is futile and it won't save any babies," he said.

Arkansas has only two abortion clinics. One provides surgical abortions. The other, a Planned Parenthood facility, distributes abortion pills that would be unaffected by the new law because they are taken in the early weeks of pregnancy. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette said about 20 percent of the state's 4,033 abortions last year (815 of them) terminated the lives of the unborn after 12 weeks of gestation.

Among CT's extensive earlier coverage on abortion includes several articles on disagreements between pro-life groups on legislative strategy at the state level.

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