The Arkansas affiliate of the ACLU, as promised, is suing to challenge Arkansas' new legal ban on most abortions beginning at the 12th week of pregnancy. It will discuss the lawsuit at a 1 p.m. news conference today at the Capitol. Here's the text of the lawsuit. Plaintiffs are Drs. Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten, on behalf of themselves and their patients; defendants are the members of the State Medical Board, which the new Act names as the enforcers of the ban.
Others are considering filing a lawsuit also against the bill that invokes a 20-week abortion ban. Both bans fall well short of the fetus viability standard that has long guided federal courts.
A news release follows about the lawsuit.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Arkansas filed a legal challenge today against Arkansas’s unconstitutional ban on abortions beginning at 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Today’s lawsuit, Edwards v. Beck, (PDF attached) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of two physicians who provide abortion services at a Little Rock clinic, and argues that the Arkansas law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning pre-viability abortions.
SB134 was enacted in March—just two days after Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the measure—when both houses in the state legislature voted to override his veto. Today’s legal challenge seeks to block the law before it takes effect on July 18, 2013.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“We are filing suit today to protect the fundamental right of every woman in Arkansas to make her own decisions about her health, her pregnancy, her family, and her future, free from interference by politicians who seek to strip that right away.
“The promise of the U.S. Constitution is that the rights it encompasses are guaranteed equally to all Americans, regardless of where they live or who sits in power at their statehouses and legislatures.
“Politicians hostile to women’s constitutional rights in Arkansas have cast that promise aside. They have consigned the women of their state to a second class of citizens whose rights are lesser than those who live in states that protect reproductive freedom.
For the past 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that states cannot ban abortion before viability. Acknowledging the wide divergence of views on the issue, the Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade that, “by adopting one theory of life, [a state] may [not] override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake.” Instead, prior to viability, every woman has the right to make decisions about pregnancy based on her own personal beliefs.
“No politician has the authority to vote the fundamental rights of his or her fellow citizens away,” said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We fully expect the court to immediately strike down this legislative assault on the U.S. Constitution and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent.”
The Arkansas law banning abortion at 12 weeks is one of the most extreme in the nation, only surpassed by the recently-enacted North Dakota measure banning the procedure as early as six-weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. The Center for Reproductive Rights has committed to also challenging the North Dakota law on behalf the state's only abortion clinic before it is scheduled to take effect this summer.
NEWS RELEASE FROM PLANNED PARENTHOOD
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland applauds the challenge filed in Federal District Court today, against the state’s unconstitutional abortion ban. The 12-week abortion ban is one of the most extreme anti-woman’s health bills in the country.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights are challenging the law on behalf of two doctors who perform abortion at a health center in Little Rock.
Statement from Jill June, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland
“This restrictive ban on safe and legal abortion puts the health and safety of Arkansas women and their families at risk. A woman may need an abortion for many different reasons, and she should be trusted to make her own personal private medical decisions.
“We applaud the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights for standing up for the health and rights of all Arkansas women by challenging this unconstitutional ban. We are proud to stand with them in support.
“Politics should never be inserted into a woman’s personal medical decisions. This law goes too far, and could have devastating consequences on Arkansas women. "