National Partnership for Women & Families

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Abortion-Rights Groups Ask SCOTUS To Decline To Hear Appeal on Overturned Ark. Abortion Ban

Abortion-rights groups on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an attempt by Arkansas officials to reinstate an overturned state law (Act 301) that bans abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy, AP/THV 11 reports.

According to AP/THV 11, attorneys with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union told the high court that the state has not provided a compelling reason to reexamine whether restrictions on the procedure should be based on fetal viability (AP/THV 11, 12/10).

Legal Background

CRR and ACLU filed suit in April 2013 against the Arkansas law. The measure bans abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal anomaly. In March 2014, a federal judge struck down part of the law, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat, rather than viability, is unconstitutional. However, the judge left in place parts of the law that require physicians to perform an ultrasound and tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

In May, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision, ruling that the Arkansas law's abortion ban is unconstitutional because it violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent that permits women to have an abortion before fetal viability. The court left in place provisions in the law that mandate that physicians tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) in June asked the full 8th Circuit Court to rehear the case. The Circuit Court rejected the request in July. In October, Rutledge then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court decision against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/16).