LITTLE ROCK — Opponents of an Arkansas law banning most abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy told a federal judge Monday that they shouldn’t have to wait until the restriction is enforced to challenge its constitutionality.
Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights responded to the state’s request that a federal judge dismiss their lawsuit over the abortion ban. A hearing is scheduled Friday over the groups’ request for a preliminary injunction against the ban.
The ACLU and the center sued the state last month on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, who provide abortions at a Little Rock clinic. The state has argued that the groups don’t have standing to challenge the ban since it won’t take effect until in August.
In a 14-page response, the groups argued that the doctors should not have to expose themselves to liability by waiting until the ban is enforced. Doctors who violate the ban face having their medical license revoked.
"Yet this is what defendants insist plaintiffs must do to have standing and ripe claims: expose themselves to license revocation unless they forego providing pre-viability abortion care at and after 12 weeks," the groups argued.
The filing also rejected the state’s argument that the ban furthers the state’s interests by protecting the health of the mother.
"While the Supreme Court has recognized that an interest in maternal health can support regulation of the conditions under which a woman can obtain abortion care, it has never even suggested that this interest justifies a ban at any point," the groups argued. "It has never suggested that anyone other than the woman herself gets to weigh such factors and render the ultimate decision."
Arkansas’ Republican-led Legislature enacted the ban in March when it overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of the measure. Beebe and other opponents of the ban say it violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. A fetus is generally considered viable at 22 to 24 weeks.