Arkansas to Appeal Ruling Striking Down Ban on Abortion When Heartbeat Detected

Ultrasound pdLITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The attorney general of Arkansas has announced that he will appeal a recent ruling that struck down the state’s ban on abortion after 12 weeks if a heartbeat is detected.

“[T]he notice of appeal was filed today and this office will diligently litigate this matter to its conclusion,” Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wrote in a statement on Friday.

As previously reported, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, nominated by George H.W. Bush, wrote in her opinion last month that the standard for abortion restrictions according to Roe v. Wade is whether the child is viable—meaning that he or she can survive outside of the womb—rather than whether the baby has a heartbeat.

“The Court notes that the [state] conveys that viability ‘begins’ with a heartbeat; it does not declare that viability is fully achieved with the adept of a heartbeat,” she stated.

Legislators had voted in March of last year to make the Human Heartbeat Protection Act law, overriding the veto of Democratic Governor Mike Beebe. The Act required that women obtain an ultrasound prior to having an abortion, and if a heartbeat is detected past twelve weeks, the abortion may not proceed. Abortionists who violate the law would have their license revoked.

However, the ACLU of Arkansas soon threatened to file a lawsuit, and in April, it followed through with the threat. It sued the state medical board, asking the court to act quickly to prevent “irreparable harm” to abortionists and abortion-minded mothers.

Wright granted a preliminary injunction to the ACLU the following month, agreeing with its assertions.

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“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.”

Last month, Wright issued her final opinion in the matter, declaring the law to be unconstitutional.

“The Court finds as a matter of law that the 12-week abortion ban included in Act 301 prohibits pre-viability abortions and thus impermissibly infringes a woman’s 14th Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability,” she wrote. “The state presents no evidence that a fetus can live outside the mother’s womb at twelve weeks.”

However, she left in place the requirement that abortionists check for a heartbeat prior to an abortion and notify the mother if it is present.

As the state considered its next move, McDaniel listened to bill sponsor Jason Rapert, who urged him to file an appeal with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Senator Rapert has specifically asked me to appeal,” he wrote in his statement on Friday. “I agreed to do so as long as there would be no impact on the budget of the Arkansas State Medical Board, the defendant in this matter, should the state be required to pay attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs.”

“I have been personally assured by Senate President Pro Tempore-designate Dismang and House Speaker-designate Gillam that the Medical Board budget will not be affected, and that any costs borne from this litigation will be paid through a separate appropriation,” McDaniel continued. “I have also committed to Senator Rapert, Jerry Cox and the Liberty Counsel our continued cooperation and transparency in the course of this litigation.”

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