Arkansas’ 12-Week Abortion Ban Is Dead After Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case

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iStock_000008042862_SmallThe Supreme Court has announced that it will not be hearing Arkansas’ case about why it should be allowed to ban abortion of any fetus with an estimated gestational age of more than 12 weeks, which effectively and finally put an end to the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the U.S.

According to Mother Jones, in 2013 Arkansas passed the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act,” which banned abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat could be detected. It was the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe–a Democrat–vetoed it. Two days later, though, the Arkansas state legislature was able to override the veto and pass the law anyway.

Not long after that two doctors and some of their patients sued the state medical board in an attempt to get the ban thrown out, and the issue has been a matter of contention ever since. Two courts both agreed with the doctors and threw out the 12-week abortion ban in 2014. But Arkansas decided it wasn’t going to give up and has been trying to get the case before the Supreme Court. But now the Supreme Court has said that it will not be hearing the case, so it is dead. The lower court rulings stand, and Arkansas cannot have its 12-week abortion ban.

“Arkansas politicians cannot pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they want to uphold,” said Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Supreme Court has never wavered in affirming that every woman has a right to safely and legally end a pregnancy in the US—and this extreme abortion ban was a direct affront to that right.”

To be sure, abortion rights are under significant threat. Despite the fact that the Supreme Court’s standard for decades has been that abortion is legal in the U.S. and states cannot ban abortions before a fetus is viable outside the womb, 15 states have passed laws that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. Efforts to push decrease that number even further will undoubtedly continue, but for now at least maybe this ruling will send a message to state lawmakers that abortion is still legal in the U.S. and that the Supreme Court is not going to let them thwart Roe v. Wade by just establishing earlier and earlier cut-off dates until they have a de facto ban in place.

(Photo: ericsphotography/iStockPhoto/Getty Images)