A federal judge struck down on of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation on Friday, ruling that that a measure in Arkansas restricting abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability” of the fetus.
The law cut off women’s access to legal abortion services well before the point of viability, which is typically around 24 weeks. However, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s ruling “let stand the law’s requirement that a woman seeking an abortion first undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present.”
The legislature overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto and enacted the law in March 2013, which had initially sought to ban abortions after just six weeks. In his veto statement, Beebe argued that the 12-week prohibition “blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution” and the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. In 1973, the court found that women have a constitutionally protected right to legal abortion services until the medically accepted point of viability.
Arkansas attorney general, Dustin McDaniel has not said if the state would appeal Wright’s decision. Similar restrictions exist in North Dakota and approximately a dozen states nationwide.