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Federal judge blocks near total abortion ban in Arkansas

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking a near-total abortion ban signed into law in Arkansas in March. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking a near-total abortion ban signed into law in Arkansas in March. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a law that would ban almost all abortions in Arkansas.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction ruling the ban was "categorically unconstitutional" because it bars providers from performing abortions before a fetus would be considered viable.

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The law bans abortions except "to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency." It doesn't provide for other exceptions for instances such as rape, incest or fetal anomalies.

Baker ruled that the plaintiffs, Little Rock Family Planning Services and its patients, had standing to challenge the law based on its restriction of pre-viability abortions and said their argument was likely to succeed.

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"Defendants make no argument as to whether or not plaintiffs' patients will experience irreparable harm," Baker wrote. "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."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the law in March, which would institute a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison for medical practitioners who violate the ban. It was set to take effect July 28.

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Hutchinson at the time said he signed the bill due to his "long-held pro-life convictions," while acknowledging it was likely to face challenges that would likely lead to the Supreme Court.

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A spokeswoman for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she was disappointed with the ruling and "will be reviewing it to consider the appropriate next step to protect the life of the unborn."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which joined Little Rock Family Planning Services in the lawsuit, praised the decision.

"We're relieved that the court has blocked another cruel and harmful attempt to criminalize abortion care and intrude on Arkansans' deeply personal medical decisions," said Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas.

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