Center for Reproductive Rights and ACLU File Lawsuit to Block Extreme and Unconstitutional Abortion Ban in Arkansas

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(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Arkansas filed a legal challenge today against Arkansas's unconstitutional ban on abortions beginning at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Today's lawsuit, Edwards v. Beck, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of two physicians who provide abortion services at a Little Rock clinic, and argues that the Arkansas law violates the U.S. Constitution by banning pre-viability abortions.

SB134 was enacted in March-just two days after Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the measure-when both houses in the state legislature voted to override his veto. Today's legal challenge seeks to block the law before it takes effect on July 18, 2013.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

"We are filing suit today to protect the fundamental right of every woman in Arkansas to make her own decisions about her health, her pregnancy, her family, and her future, free from interference by politicians who seek to strip that right away.

"The promise of the U.S. Constitution is that the rights it encompasses are guaranteed equally to all Americans, regardless of where they live or who sits in power at their statehouses and legislatures.

"Politicians hostile to women's constitutional rights in Arkansas have cast that promise aside. They have consigned the women of their state to a second class of citizens whose rights are lesser than those who live in states that protect reproductive freedom.

For the past 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held that states cannot ban abortion before viability. Acknowledging the wide divergence of views on the issue, the Supreme Court concluded in Roe v. Wade that, "by adopting one theory of life, [a state] may [not] override the rights of the pregnant woman that are at stake." Instead, prior to viability, every woman has the right to make decisions about pregnancy based on her own personal beliefs.

"No politician has the authority to vote the fundamental rights of his or her fellow citizens away," said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "We fully expect the court to immediately strike down this legislative assault on the U.S. Constitution and 40 years of Supreme Court precedent."

The Arkansas law banning abortion at 12 weeks is one of the most extreme in the nation, only surpassed by the recently-enacted North Dakota measure banning the procedure as early as six-weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant. The Center for Reproductive Rights has committed to also challenging the North Dakota law on behalf the state's only abortion clinic before it is scheduled to take effect this summer.