Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas’ Stringent 12-Week Abortion Ban From Taking Effect

Earlier this year, Arkansas Republicans overrode their governor to enact one of the harshest abortion restrictions in the nation, a 12-week ban that would criminalize one out of every 10 abortions in the state. But reproductive rights advocates are fighting back, taking the state to court and ultimately winning an injunction that will prevent the harsh law from going into effect.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Arkansas all joined forces to file a lawsuit against the extreme abortion ban, which oversteps Roe v. Wade‘s constitutional right to legal abortion services until about 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. On Friday afternoon, a federal judge ruled that the 12-week ban — which was set to take effect in August — cannot be enforced while that legal challenge is still pending.

Nancy Northrup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, praised U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s decision to grant the injunction against the law. “Today’s decision ensures that the women of Arkansas will remain protected from this blatant unconstitutional assault on their health and fundamental reproductive rights,” Northrup said in a statement. “Such an extreme ban on abortion would have immediate and devastating consequences for women in Arkansas, especially those who could not afford to travel out of state to access reproductive health care.”

Wright’s decision to block the 12-week ban comes just days after her decision to dismiss Arkansas’ request to drop the lawsuit. Wright sided against the state on Wednesday, ruling that the reproductive rights groups may continue with their legal challenge.

Arkansas’ stringent abortion ban is topped only by a new law in North Dakota, which would cut off legal access to abortion services after just six weeks — before many women even realize they’re pregnant. Both laws are “heartbeat” measures, which seek to criminalize abortion after the fetus’ heartbeat can first be detected — a random cut-off that isn’t based in any scientific definition of viability.