LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals court Thursday denied a request from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for a rehearing after the court found Arkansas’ 12-week abortion ban unconstitutional.

LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals court Thursday denied a request from Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for a rehearing after the court found Arkansas’ 12-week abortion ban unconstitutional.


In a one-page order, the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis said it would not reconsider its May 27 ruling upholding U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s March 2014 ruling that struck down most of Act 301 of 2013, known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act.


As passed by the Legislature, Act 301 would have required a woman seeking an abortion at 12 weeks or later into a pregnancy to undergo an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and would have banned an abortion if a heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies. Wright issued a stay that prevented the law from taking effect until a lawsuit challenging it was resolved.


Wright ruled last year that the provisions in the law banning an abortion if a heartbeat is detected were unconstitutional, though she left standing the provisions requiring a check for a fetal heartbeat.


In its May decision upholding Wright’s ruling, the 8th Circuit said the state never presented evidence to refute testimony that at 12 weeks a fetus is not viable, or able to survive outside the womb. The U.S. Supreme Court has said states cannot bar a woman from obtaining an abortion before a fetus becomes viable.