Abortion-rights groups have sued Arkansas over its ban on abortions after 18 weeks into pregnancy, arguing the measure is unconstitutional and calling for a judge to block it from going into effect this summer.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Arkansas state officials charging that the 18-week ban -- as well as laws that prohibit abortions targeting fetuses with Down syndrome and allow only certified obstetrician-gynecologists to perform abortions -- is unconstitutional.
The laws "fly directly in the face of longstanding Supreme Court precedent and are the latest in Arkansas's unrelenting campaign to deny women the health care they seek and to which they are entitled," the ACLU and Planned Parenthood write in the complaint.
The challenge comes as several of the laws coming out of red state legislatures restricting abortion are being taken to court, with the two organizations also challenging Alabama's near-total abortion ban. Many conservative lawmakers anticipated the suits, having advanced the measures in hopes of eventually overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood have requested that US District Judge Kristine Baker, who is overseeing the Arkansas case, halt the laws from going into effect as scheduled on July 24.
"Without this relief, the Restrictions will have a devastating effect on women seeking to access abortion in the state," the ACLU and Planned Parenthood argue.
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the measure in March. It bans abortions after 18 weeks into a pregnancy -- six weeks before the standard set by Roe -- except in medical emergencies and in cases of rape or incest.
The plaintiffs argue that hastening that deadline infringes on patients' constitutional rights to privacy.
"By imposing a ban on abortion prior to viability, the 18-Week Ban violates Plaintiffs' patients' right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution," the ACLU and Planned Parenthood argue in the complaint.
The two groups filed the case on behalf of Little Rock Family Planning Services, Planned Parenthood Great Plains and two abortion providers against Arkansas officials, including Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge.
Rutledge told CNN in a statement, "I am reviewing the lawsuit filed to decide appropriate next steps. As Attorney General, it is my duty and honor to defend the sanctity of life and protect mothers and their unborn children."
Holly Dickson, the legal director of ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement that "these dangerously extreme bans and restrictions are part of a nationwide effort to criminalize abortion, while punishing providers and shaming families seeking care."
"Personal medical decisions should be made by families in consultation with their health providers, not dictated by politicians trying to force people to remain pregnant against their will and against medical advice," she added. "Today, we're challenging three plainly unconstitutional laws that would completely outlaw abortions for many Arkansans and target health providers with restrictions that would push care even further out of reach."
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