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Arkansas

Abortion Bans

NEAR-TOTAL

Arkansas has not repealed its pre-Roe abortion ban, which is unconstitutional and unenforceable. 

The ban provides that any person who administers or prescribes any medication with the intent to induce an abortion or employs other means to induce an abortion will be fined up to $1000 and imprisoned for one to five years.  Ark. Code Ann. A 5-61-102 (Enacted 1969; Last Amended 1999).  A court held that this ban is unconstitutional as applied to physicians and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement against physicians. Smith v. Bentley, 493 F. Supp. 916 (W.D. Ark. 1980). 

AFTER 12 WEEKS

Arkansas outlaws abortion after 12 weeks*, without adequate exception to protect women's health. S.B.134, 89th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ark. 2013).

Arkansas' law requires any person authorized to provide abortion services to perform an abdominal ultrasound to determine if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat. If a heartbeat is detected, the woman must be given written notice of that heartbeat and the statistical probability of bringing her pregnancy to term. The woman must then sign a form acknowledging that she received that notice. If the heartbeat is detected and the pregnancy is 12 weeks or later, the abortion is prohibited. S.B.134, 89th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ark. 2013).

The law does not apply to pregnancies that result from rape or incest. The law also does not apply when an abortion is necessary to prevent the woman's death, to prevent a serious and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function, or when a highly lethal fetal disorder is detected.  Physicians found in violation of the law by the Arkansas Medical Board may have their medical license revoked. S.B.134, 89th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ark. 2013).

*The Arkansas law measures gestation based on a woman's last menstrual period (LMP), in contrast to most states that measure post-fertilization.  Using the LMP standard usually adds two weeks to the gestational age; as a result, this law likely bans abortion at 10 weeks.

The law has been temporarily blocked by a federal court. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued a preliminary injunction against the law soon after its passage after pro-choice activists challenged the law. Edwards v. Beck, E.D. Ark., No. 4:13-cv-00224, *12 (prelim. inj. dated 5/28/2013).  

Arkansas also outlaws abortion after 20 weeks, without an adequate exception to protect women's health or for cases of fetal anomaly.  H.R. 1037, 89th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ark. 2013).

Arkansas' law makes abortion after 20 weeks a felony, unless necessary to preserve the woman's life or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function.  Physicians in violation of the law would also be subject to up to six years imprisonment and/or fines up to $500, and disciplinary action which may include license suspension or revocation.  In addition, the law allows the father or the pregnant woman to bring a civil suit for damages against the physician.  It also allows the woman, her parent, her guardian, her spouse, her sibling, her other health-care providers, a prosecuting attorney with jurisdiction, or the state attorney general to file for injunctive relief blocking the abortion provider from providing future abortion care after 20 weeks.  H.R. 1037, 89th Gen. Assem., Reg. Sess. (Ark. 2013).

BAN ON ABORTION PROCEDURE

Arkansas outlaws a safe second-trimester abortion procedure with no exception to protect a woman's health.  Ark. Code Ann. AA 20-16-1201 to -1206 (Enacted 2009).  Arkansas' law makes certain previability, second-trimester abortion procedures a felony, unless necessary to preserve the woman's life.  Physicians in violation of the law are also subject to disciplinary action by the State Medical Board, including fines from $25,000 to $100,000 or more, license suspension for up to one year, or license revocation.  In addition, the law allows the parents of the pregnant woman, if she is under age 18, or the husband to bring a civil suit for damages against the physician.  Ark. Code Ann. AA 20-16-1201 to -1206 (Enacted 2009).

A court held that an earlier version of Arkansas' ban was unconstitutionally overbroad and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting its enforcement.  Little Rock Family Planning Servs., P.A. v. Jegley, 192 F.3d 794 (8th Cir. 1999). 

There is also a Federal Abortion Ban, which applies nationwide regardless of state law.  The federal ban prohibits certain second-trimester abortion procedures and has no exception for a woman's health.  In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban, making it the first time since Roe v. Wade that the court has upheld a ban on a previability abortion procedure. Click here to read more about the Federal Abortion Ban.




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