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8th Circuit Denies Ark. Appeal on Decision Overturning 12-Week Abortion Ban

July 9, 2015 — The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected the Arkansas attorney general's request for the full court to review a three-judge panel's decision overturning part of a state law (Act 301) that would have banned abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy, AP/Columbus Republic reports (AP/Columbus Republic, 7/9).

Background

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 upheld the lower court's decision, ruling 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.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R) last month asked the full 8th Circuit to rehear the case (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/12).

State Ordered To Pay Plaintiffs' Fees, Expenses

In related news, the 8th Circuit earlier this week ordered Arkansas to pay $76.30 in costs, $27,060 in attorneys' fees and $1,375.75 in expenses to the attorneys representing the two physicians in the state who challenged the 12-week abortion ban.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the order did not provide reasons for the final totals. The plaintiffs originally had requested $2,442.44 in expenses and $48,555 in attorneys' fees (Satter, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 7/9).