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New Arkansas Anti-Abortion Law to Face Legal Challenge

The Arkansas Legislature has passed an anti-abortion bill banning a common medical procedure and allowing family members to block a woman from having it. (mj00007/iStockphoto)
The Arkansas Legislature has passed an anti-abortion bill banning a common medical procedure and allowing family members to block a woman from having it. (mj00007/iStockphoto)
February 6, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Women's health advocates and legal experts say they don't expect a new Arkansas law blocking a certain type of abortion procedure to survive challenges in court.

The new law bans a standard medical procedure used in rare, second-trimester abortions, and also allows a woman's family members to go to court to block it. Identical measures have already been found unconstitutional by courts in other states.

Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, communications director at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, called the effort by conservatives in the Arkansas Legislature a cynical attempt to rally their base.

"This particular method ban has fallen in every state that it's been passed in,” Lee-Gilmore said. "These types of laws, particularly this method ban, is written by the National Right to Life group and then they kind of disseminate it down to the state level."

In states where it has passed, the law criminalizes a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, even in cases of incest or rape. The bill's sponsor, Andy Mayberry, a GOP representative from Pulaski County, called the procedure barbaric.

Rita Sklar, executive director at the ACLU of Arkansas, said her group will likely pursue legal action to block the measure. She said it is "offensive" that elected officials would pass a law they already know is unconstitutional.

"For the women, it is not a game - it is very serious,” Sklar said. "Legislators shouldn't be throwing stuff out to see whether it sticks when we're talking about women's health. They shouldn't be doing anything except doing the best they can to protect women's health."

Sklar called the law a major overreach into the doctor-patient relationship. She said bills with almost the exact same wording have been overturned by courts in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma and are currently being challenged in Mississippi and West Virginia.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR