Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas Law Banning Abortions When Heartbeat Detected


ultrasoundLittle Rock, Arkansas – A federal judge appointed by George H.W. Bush has temporarily blocked enforcement of an Arkansas law banning abortions past twelve weeks when a heartbeat is detected.

Judge Susan Weber Wright granted an injunction on Friday to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had filed a lawsuit  last month on behalf of abortionists Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten, who work at Little Rock Family Planning Clinic in the state capital. Edwards and Tvedten are challenging the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, which was passed by lawmakers in March.

“The Act will prohibit most of these post-12 week, previability abortions. Absent an injunction, plaintiffs will have no choice but to turn away patients in need of abortion care,” the legal complaint asserted. “The constitutional rights of Arkansas women would suffer irreparably, as would their well-being and dignity.”

While Wright did not rule on the constitutionality of the ordinance, which will be decided later in the legal battle, she did note her agreement with the ACLU’s contentions.

“I believe that there is a threat of irreparable harm, because these doctors … could face loss of their licenses,” she wrote. “They also have established that their patients could suffer irreparable harm by not being able to have abortions post 12-weeks but during that pre-viability period.”

However, Wright stated that the bill was not altogether problematic as she took no issue with the requirement to listen for a heartbeat.

“I do not believe it would be an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion for the doctor to determine whether she has a fetal heartbeat and to tell her when she does,” she opined.

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Following Wright’s decision to block the law, which was to go into effect in August, both sides in the lawsuit released statements over the matter.

“We have asked the court to stop this dangerous law from going into effect,” stated Holly Dickson, legal director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “This law is aimed at allowing politicians to insert themselves into deeply personal and private medical care and decisions for which they should have no say.”

Bill sponsor Senator Jason Rapert strongly disagreed.

“When there is a heartbeat, there is life,” he declared. “And it is time in this nation and in our state, when you have 55 million human beings that have been taken, we must have a more rational and a more humane policy on abortion in our nation.”

As previously reported, Jerry Cox of Family Council stated that the lives of unborn children are well worth the time and expense of the legal fight.

“If the State of Arkansas ends up spending public funds to defend a law that protects human life, that’s an excellent use of our public dollars,” he said. “The fact that the ACLU or any other group threatens a lawsuit should never deter the Arkansas Legislature from doing what is right. Thankfully, the Arkansas legislature did the right thing by passing this good law. Now it’s up to the courts to do the right thing as well by upholding it.”

Legislators in North Dakota passed a similar bill earlier this year that likewise bans abortions when a heartbeat is detected. 

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