June 12, 2015 — Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) on Wednesday asked the full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear a ruling that struck down part of a state law (Act 301) prohibiting abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10).
The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in April 2013 against the Arkansas law. The measure includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder.
In March 2014, a federal judge struck down part of Arkansas' law, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than viability is unconstitutional. However, the judge left in place parts of the law that require physicians to perform an ultrasound and tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
In May, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit ruled that the Arkansas law's abortion ban is unconstitutional because it violates Supreme Court precedent that permits women to have an abortion before fetal viability. The court left in place provisions in the law that mandate that physicians tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/28).
Rutledge expressed her support for the legislation and said it was her "duty to defend this law."
Meanwhile, Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said she did not think the appeal would succeed. "The three-judge panel of the appeals court agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which made it clear that abortions [are] constitutional up to the point of viability, and 12 weeks is not viability," she said (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10).