LITTLE ROCK — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging four recently passed Arkansas laws restricting abortions.
The ACLU and Planned Parenthood Great Plains also filed a separate suit challenging a fifth state law on abortions.
The groups filed the suits in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. The suit challenging four laws was filed on behalf of Dr. Frederick Hopkins, who performs abortions at Little Rock Family Planning Services.
Hopkins’ suit alleges that the following laws would unconstitutionally burden a woman’s right to an abortion and seeks temporary and permanent injunctions barring them from taking effect:
• Act 45 of 2017, set to take effect July 30, which makes it a felony to perform the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation and allows lawsuits to be filed against doctors who perform the procedure.
• Act 733 of 2017, set to take effect Jan. 1, which requires that before performing an abortion a doctor make an effort to obtain medical records related to the patient’s current pregnancy and all past pregnancies.
• Act 1018 of 2017, set to take effect July 30, which requires that a doctor who performs an abortion on a child under age 17 provide fetal tissue from the abortion to law enforcement.
• Act 603 of 2017, set to take effect July 30, which requires that a dead fetus be disposed of according to the Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009. The 2009 law allows human remains to be disposed of by burial, cremation, interment or removal from Arkansas; establishes which family members have precedence in controlling disposition; and provides criminal penalties for doctors who fail to assure that remains are disposed of according to the law.
The suit alleges that the laws would ban a safe and medically proven abortion method; delay or block abortions with a burdensome requirement that abortion providers seek medical records; require that a young woman’s abortion be reported to police in a way that invades her and her family’s privacy; and require notification of a woman’s partner or other family members regarding disposition of fetal remains, effectively allowing them to block the abortion.
The other suit was filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Services and all their patients. It asks for a ruling that a provision in Act 383 of 2017, set to take effect July 30, is unconstitutional and unenforceable.
The provision requires the state Department of Health to suspend or revoke the license of an abortion clinic for “the violation of any provision of law or rule.”
The suit states, “That means that any minor infraction related to the hundreds of legal requirements that apply to abortion clinics will result in mandatory suspension or revocation of the abortion clinic’s license, regardless of whether the infraction poses any risk to patient health or safety. No other licensed medical providers in Arkansas are subject to such extreme and mandatory penalties.”
Judd Deere, a spokesman for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, said Tuesday that Rutledge “will continue to wholeheartedly defend laws in Arkansas that are intended to protect both mothers and their babies.”
Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement Tuesday, “Instead of protecting women’s health, Arkansas politicians have passed laws that defy decency and reason just to make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get an abortion. They’ve created burdensome bureaucratic hurdles that invade patient privacy.”
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “Arkansas politicians have devised new and cruel ways to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion this year — and we’re fighting back. From essentially banning abortion in the second trimester to violating women’s privacy, these measures represent a new low.”
Jerry Cox, president of the Christian conservative Family Council, which opposes abortion, said in a statement the suits target “commonsense pieces of legislation that protect the health and safety of women.”
“It’s tragic the ACLU and others would have so little regard for the health and safety of women as to challenge these good laws,” he said.