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SCOTUS Declines To Consider Overturned Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to review an overturned Arkansas law (Act 301) that bans abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy, Reuters reports (Hurley, Reuters, 1/19).

The justices rejected the appeal without comment (DeMillo, AP/Kansas City Star, 1/19).

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in April 2013 against the 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/23/15).

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 2015, 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 2015 asked the full 8th Circuit Court to rehear the case. The Circuit Court rejected the request in July 2015. In October 2015, Rutledge asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court decision against the ban. Last month, both sides submitted briefs urging the Supreme Court to reject or consider the case (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/23/15).

Comments

CRR President Nancy Northup praised the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case. "Arkansas politicians cannot pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they want to uphold," she said, adding, "The Supreme Court has never wavered in affirming that every woman has a right to safely and legally end a pregnancy in the U.S. -- and this extreme abortion ban was a direct affront to that right" (AP/Kansas City Star, 1/19).

Talcott Camp of ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project noted, "Arkansas cannot veto a woman's decision to have an abortion, period." Camp added, "This personal, medical decision rests with a woman, her family and her doctor, not politicians" (Reuters, 1/19).