Judge Overturns Ban on 12-Week Abortions in Arkansas

A controversial ban on 12-week abortions in Arkansas has been struck down by a federal judge.

On Friday U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright cited viability, not a heartbeat, as the key factor in deciding if an abortion should be allowed and made it clear that only a doctor can make that determination. Via USA Today:

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright last year had stopped enforcement of the law while she reviewed it, and on Friday she declared that it was unconstitutional. She cited previous court decisions that said abortions shouldn't be restricted until after a fetus reaches viability, which is typically at 22 to 24 weeks.

"The state presents no evidence that a fetus can live outside the mother's womb at twelve weeks," the judge wrote.

By adopting a ban based on a fetal heartbeat, and not the ability to survive, the Arkansas Legislature had adopted the nation's toughest abortion law last March. Two weeks later, North Dakota lawmakers passed a bill restricting abortions at six weeks — or before some women would know they're pregnant. That law is on hold.

In her decision Friday, Wright said only a doctor could determine viability.

"The Supreme Court has … stressed that it is not the proper function of the legislature or the courts to place viability at a specific point in the gestation period," Wright wrote in the decision.

Of course because everything is always three steps forward and two steps back (or more like three steps forward and two steps still stuck in 1950), Wright did not strike down the portion of the law that requires doctors to check for a heartbeat.

Wright's ruling back-ups what Gov. Mike Beebe predicted would happen when he vetoed the bill. But, in a move not seen since the Reconstruction, Republicans in the Statehouse were like "WHATEVER, DUDE" and overrode his decision with a majority vote.

"Today's decision was not a surprise," said Aaron Sadler, a spokesperson for the state attorney general's office.

Image via Shutterstock.