Court blocks Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., May 17 (UPI) -- A federal judge has blocked enforcement of an Arkansas law restricting abortion because it may violate a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

In a ruling dated May 15, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber declined to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two doctors at Little Rock Family Planning Services Inc., challenging the constitutionality of the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, scheduled to take effect Aug. 16. The act, also known as Act 301, would prohibit most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation if a heartbeat is detected.


The lawsuit -- brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of physicians Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten -- argues the act violates "over 40 years of settled United States Supreme Court precedent."

"The Court finds at this pleading stage, Plaintiffs have demonstrated a realistic danger of sustaining a direct injury as a result of Act 301's operation or enforcement, and they have presented a justiciable controversy that is ripe for review," Webber wrote in her finding.

The judge found "there is no question that the threatened harm is traceable to the [Arkansas State Medical] Board's enforcement of the Act and that the declaratory and injunctive relief sought would redress the asserted injuries."


Although Webber found the plaintiffs have sufficient standing to claim Act 301 "impermissibly infringes a woman's Fourteenth Amendment right to chose to terminate a pregnancy before viability," the ruling does not resolve the constitutional challenge of the law itself, Arkansas Online said.

The state's Republican-dominated Legislature passed Act 301 in March by overriding a veto by Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat.

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