Iowa’s passage of the most restrictive abortion law in the country was another reminder of the nationwide assault on reproductive rights, and how some politicians are determined to end access to abortion and interfere with women’s personal medical decisions.

Five years ago, the ACLU of Arkansas joined the Center for Reproductive Rights to successfully challenge a similar abortion ban that would have prohibited women from obtaining abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. In that case, Edwards v. Beck, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ban, affirming a lower court’s ruling that the law “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to choose to terminate a pregnancy before viability.”

Despite this victory, attacks on reproductive rights have continued unabated here in Arkansas and across the nation. Politicians keep putting their own extreme agendas ahead of women’s health, and we keep suing them to protect a woman’s fundamental right to decide when and whether to start and grow their families.

Right now, the ACLU of Arkansas has three abortion-related cases pending in the courts. Working with and representing our partners at Planned Parenthood, we are challenging laws that restrict women’s access to abortion, target their providers with punitive and medically unnecessary regulations, and deny low-income Arkansans’ access to life-saving health care services.

Here’s an update on where each of these lawsuits stand:

  • Hopkins v. Jegley: In June 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit to block four Arkansas laws that would heavily restrict or outright ban abortion in the state. The Federal District Court granted our request for a preliminary injunction on July 28, 2017, blocking the law from taking effect. The state has appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
     
  • Planned Parenthood of Great Plains and Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Smith: Also in June 2017, we filed suit on behalf of Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning against a law that singles out abortion providers for medically unnecessary regulations in a thinly-veiled attempt to shut down clinics and push abortion care out of reach. We have renewed our request for a ruling that would ensure licensing standards for these medical providers are in line with and the same as all other medical providers.
     
  • Planned Parenthood of Great Plains v. Gillespie: In 2015, the ACLU of Arkansas and Planned Parenthood Great Plains filed suit to ensure that people with limited incomes could continue to access affordable birth control, lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings, and other healthcare at Planned Parenthood health centers using their Medicaid benefits after Governor Asa Hutchinson tried to block the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics. The case has returned to the trial court where we are fighting to block the Governor’s action on the basis that treating Planned Parenthood of Great Plains differently than other Medicaid providers violates the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection. Planned Parenthood offers life-saving cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and birth control – but right now low-income Arkansans’ are being denied these services simply because they are enrolled in Medicaid. We will keep fighting to restore these essential health care services to low-income Arkansans insured through Medicaid. 

Seven in 10 Americans oppose overturning the basic guarantee enshrined by Supreme Court in Roe v Wade: that women, not politicians or government bureaucrats, have the right to control their own personal medical decisions. But too many politicians haven’t gotten the memo – and even worse, they seem to be in a race to pass the most draconian and demeaning restrictions possible – devising new and ever more sinister ways to undermine reproductive rights.

For now, Iowa has the dubious distinction of having the most extreme abortion restriction in the country, which the ACLU and Planned Parenthood plan to challenge before it goes into effect on July 1.

Here in Arkansas, we’ll keep fighting in the courts and the capital to defend women’s reproductive rights. Sometimes the only way to get politicians out of the exam room is to take them to court.

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