A strict abortion law passed in the 2021 legislative session was put on pause by a federal judge Tuesday (July 20).
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday blocking Act 309, which bans almost all abortion procedures in Arkansas except those necessary to save the life of the mother. The abortion ban was scheduled to become law on July 28.
The ACLU of Arkansas, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the law firm O’Melveny & Myers filed a challenge to the ban in May.
Baker said she issued the injunction to prevent enforcement of the law while she weighs the constitutionality of Act 309.
“Since the record at this stage of the proceedings indicates that women seeking abortions in Arkansas face an imminent threat to their constitutional rights, the Court concludes that they will suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief,” Baker wrote.
Supporters of Act 309 pushed for the new law, in part, hoping it would lead to a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the nearly 50-year old Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortions. If the nation’s highest court, which has three new Republican appointees on it, would overturn the landmark decision, it would allow states to create their own laws regarding abortion.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, lead sponsor of Act 309, said in a tweet, “Babies will keep dying in Arkansas as judge issues an injunction denying the people of Arkansas the right to stop abortions in our state. Where is the conscience of the courts anymore?”
Dr. Janet Cathey, OB-GYN, Planned Parenthood Great Plains physician and a plaintiff in the case, responded to the ruling with this statement.
“Arkansas politicians have spent more and more of their time inserting themselves into the exam room and in the process, have made the doctor-patient relationship the basis for political attacks,” she said. “It is clear that they just want to shame, judge and stigmatize people who seek safe, legal abortion, and to put up more barriers to access it. Patients must be able to make their own personal medical decisions with the advice and expertise of their health care provider — not politicians. I’m thankful for today’s injunction that will allow me to continue caring for my patients.”
“The Attorney General is disappointed in the decision by Judge Baker. She will be reviewing it to consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn,” said Amanda Priest, spokesperson for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.