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SCOTUS Asks for Response From Opponents of Ark. 12-Week Abortion Ban

November 16, 2015 — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday asked opponents of an Arkansas law (Act 301) that bans abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy to respond by Dec. 10 to a state request to have the law upheld, AP/THV 11 reports (AP/THV 11, 11/12).

According to KARK 4 News, the Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear the case (Lanning, KARK 4 News, 11/12).

Background

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in April 2013 against the Arkansas law. The measure bans abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal anomaly. In March 2014, a federal judge struck down part of the 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 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals 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) in June asked the full 8th Circuit Court to rehear the case. The Circuit Court rejected the request in July. Rutledge then in October asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the lower court decision against the ban (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/7).