Arkansas Asks Court to Throw Out Abortion-Law Challenge

Arkansas urged a federal judge to dismiss a constitutional challenge by two doctors to its law restricting the availability of abortions, claiming that the statute furthers the state’s interest in protecting the fetus.

In a filing yesterday with U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright in Little Rock, attorneys for the state defended the law curbing the procedure’s availability after the 12th week of a pregnancy. The measure, passed over the veto of Governor Mike Beebe, doesn’t take effect until July 18.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit on the doctors’ behalf, have called the measure an “unwarranted intrusion” into a woman’s life and asked for an order blocking it while the challenge is pending.

The state disagreed and asked Wright to dismiss the case, saying in its filing that the measure “regulates certain pre-viability abortions without placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking a pre-viability abortion.”

The law also furthers “the state’s legitimate interests in protecting the life and health of the pregnant woman, protecting the life of the fetus that may become a child and protecting the ethics and integrity of the medical profession,” according to the Arkansas filing.

Two Doctors

The case was filed on April 16 by doctors Louis Jerry Edwards and Tom Tvedten, who are affiliated with Little Rock Family Planning Services in the state’s capital city. Violation of the law could result in a doctor losing his medical license, according to their complaint.

Twenty percent of abortions performed in the state are performed after the 12th week of pregnancy, while a fetus isn’t viable outside the womb until months later, they alleged.

“The act will prohibit most of these post-12 week, pre-viability abortions,” according to the doctors’ complaint. “Absent an injunction, plaintiffs will have no choice but to turn away patients in need of abortion care,” and the constitutional rights of Arkansas women will suffer, they said.

A hearing on the doctors’ injunction request is scheduled for May 17 in Little Rock. The state also asked the court yesterday to deny that request, saying the doctors are unlikely to succeed in having the law invalidated. The case is Edwards v. Beck, 13-cv-00224, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas (Little Rock).

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