Abortion ban violates Supreme Court precedent, opponents argue in filing


LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas law that seeks to ban most abortions at 12 weeks or later into a pregnancy violates 40 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, opponents of the law argued in a court filing Thursday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on behalf of two Little Rock doctors who sued the state over Act 301 of 2013. The brief argues that the court should reject an appeal by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office of a federal judge’s ruling that partially struck down the law.

As passed by the Legislature, Act 301 would require a woman seeking an abortion at 12 weeks or later into a pregnancy to undergo an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and would ban an abortion if a heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for some medical situations.

In March, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled that the provisions in the law banning most abortions were unconstitutional, though she left standing the provisions requiring a check for a fetal heartbeat. She had previously delayed the law from taking effect while the case was pending, so it was never in full effect.

In their brief Thursday, the groups suing over the law said states cannot ban abortion before a fetus becomes viable, or able to survive outside the womb.

“For more than 40 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that, before viability, states lack the power to ban abortion and wrest from a woman the ultimate decision of whether to continue a pregnancy — regardless of the particular interests asserted by the state, and regardless of whether the state includes exceptions to the ban,” the plaintiffs’ brief states. “This court does not have the authority to overturn this precedent, and the state’s arguments to the contrary should be roundly rejected.”

Both the attorney general’s office and the plaintiffs have said they do not wish to present oral arguments in the case.

Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed Act 301 last year, but the Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto.