A federal judge Friday struck down Arkansas' attempt to ban most abortions beginning 12 weeks into a woman's pregnancy, saying viability, not a heartbeat, remains the key factor in determining whether abortions should be allowed. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright last year had stopped enforcement of the law while she reviewed it, and on Friday she declared that it was unconstitutional. She cited previous court decisions that said abortions shouldn't be restricted until after a fetus can survive outside the womb.
Almost exactly a year ago, Republicans in Arkansas' state legislature not only approved one of the most sweeping anti-abortion bills in the country, they overrode Gov. Mike Beebe (D) to impose a 12-week abortion ban statewide. Late last week, the law which had been on hold was struck down altogether.
Note, as the AP report added, the same law requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat and to notify the pregnant woman if one is present. This part of the law was left intact in Wright's ruling.
It's the latest in a series of legal setbacks for opponents of reproductive rights, following related defeats in North Carolina, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona and Idaho.
Despite the court defeats, efforts to move the legal line from 24 weeks to 20 weeks (or fewer) are ongoing. My colleague Kate Osborn pulled together some of the legislative fights currently underway:
* In Ohio, a 6-week ban was introduced just last week.
* In Alabama, a 6-six week ban is advancing in the state legislature.
* In Mississippi, state lawmakers passed an 18-week ban last week.
* In West Virginia, the state legislature last week approved a 20-week ban.
* In South Carolina, a "personhood" bill is still in the works.
* And in Oklahoma, a 20-week ban is in the works.
It's tempting to think that maybe the policymakers behind these proposals haven't heard about the court rulings, but it's far more likely that they just don't care.