Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU File New Lawsuit Challenging Four Abortion Restrictions Passed in Arkansas This Year

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(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Arkansas filed a new lawsuit in federal district court today challenging four abortion restrictions passed in Arkansas this year.  Specifically, the lawsuit—which was filed on behalf of a women’s health care provider in federal district court—challenges a ban on one of the safest and most common methods of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester as well as a host of restrictions that force doctors to notify others--including family members--of a woman’s abortion.  Many of the measures could impose significant, if not indefinite, delays on a woman’s ability to access to abortion and miscarriage care. In short, these laws could effectively end abortion care in the state for many women. 

Arkansas passed the highest number of measures restricting a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion this year.  Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Arkansas are also filing a new lawsuit in federal district court today challenging another abortion restriction passed in Arkansas this year.  Specifically, the measure would create a “zero tolerance” policy that would require the Department of Health to close an abortion clinic for reasons wholly unrelated to its ability to provide safe medical care.  Politicians in the state also passed the highest number of restrictions in 2015.

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

“Arkansas politicians have devised new and cruel ways to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion this year—and we\'re fighting back.

“From essentially banning abortion in the second trimester to violating women's privacy, these measures represent a new low. The Supreme Court made clear one year ago in Whole Woman’s Health that politicians can’t stand between women and their constitutional rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to use the full force of the law to ensure these rights are protected and respected for all women.”

Virtually identical laws banning one of the safest and most common methods of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester in Louisiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma have not taken effect due to challenges brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights.  The ACLU has also successfully blocked a similar ban in Alabama.  In addition to challenging the ban—a measure that threatens to end second-trimester abortion care in the state—today’s lawsuit also challenges several first-of-their-kind measures:

  • a measure that would prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion until her physician, for no medical reason, has spent an undefined amount of “time and effort” to obtain her medical records relating her “entire pregnancy history.” The measure would require disclosure of a woman’s abortion to every health care professional from whom she has received pregnancy care during her current pregnancy and any previous pregnancy, and potentially cause an indefinite delay in receiving care,
  • a measure that would force doctors to notify a woman’s family members about their right to participate in the disposition of tissue from her abortion or miscarriage. The same measure could effectively ban medication abortion by imposing impossible requirements on women and their health care providers when a woman completes her medication abortion outside of a doctor’s office.  Restrictions related to disposal of tissue, such as requirements that mandate burial or cremation of fetal tissue, have been blocked across the country, including in Texas where the Center has preliminarily blocked such a measure from taking effect, 
  • a measure that would violate the privacy rights of young women under the age of 17 seeking safe, legal abortion services by disclosing her name and additional information to local law enforcement, and could effectively ban medication abortion for these young women.

“Arkansas politicians have passed extreme abortion bans that put their political agenda ahead of women’s health. No more. We’re fighting back,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU are asking the federal district court to block all four measures, each law is slated to take effect on July 30, 2017 except the medical records mandate, which is slated to take effect on January 1, 2018.

Hillary Schneller from the Center for Reproductive Rights, Talcott Camp, Ruth Harlow, and Elizabeth Watson from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Bettina Brownstein, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Arkansas, filed today’s challenge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of Dr. Fred Hopkins at Little Rock Family Planning Services.  Little Rock Family Planning is the only abortion clinic providing surgical abortion care in Arkansas.