A federal judge on Friday struck down an Arkansas law that would ban most abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy, one of the most restrictive such statutes enacted in the United States, declaring the measure unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled that the law “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability” of the fetus, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Webber had previously barred enforcement of the measure while she reviewed a legal challenge to it brought by two Arkansas abortion providers.
As enacted, the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act would have banned most abortions at or after 12 weeks of pregnancy, if a fetal heartbeat could be detected by standard ultrasound.
Doctors who were found to violate the statute risked having their licenses revoked by the state medical board.
Exemptions were allowed in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, if the life of the mother were in danger, or in cases of a gross fetal abnormality that made its survival impossible.
Webber’s decision let stand the law’s requirement that a woman seeking an abortion first undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present.