July 24 (UPI) -- A federal judge has blocked a new abortion law from taking effect in Arkansas, which aims to ban the procedure statewide after 18 weeks of pregnancy.
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary restraining order just before midnight. The law also bars abortion in cases of Down syndrome and requires that doctors performing the procedure be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.
The OB/GYN provision threatens to put Arkansas' only surgical abortion clinic out of business, as it has only one physician who meets the new mandate.
The judge's move is a response to a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood.
"Let me be clear, this will not stop women from getting abortions," ACLU attorney Bettina Brownstein said. "It is just going to make it difficult for women in rural areas, poor women to get abortions. If this state really cared about people and about babies and about children, we would be doing so much more to improve the lives of women and children and babies."
Dr. Linda Prine, a New York City family practitioner, said the law would require women to travel farther and delay their procedure.
"Women would die because of this law," Prine said. "It's really unsafe."
State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has defended the law in court.
Arkansas currently prohibits abortions after 21.6 weeks of pregnancy and allows any physician licensed to practice in the state to perform them.
New abortion restrictions are on the rise nationwide since conservatives gained a majority on the Supreme Court last year. Some states are hopeful they will lead to a re-evaluation of the high court's landmark 1973 ruling that legalized the procedure.