U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker granted a 14-day temporary restraining order shortly before midnight Tuesday. The 159-page ruling blocks the state from enforcing the new laws, including a measure prohibiting the procedure 18 weeks into pregnancy. She also wrote that the restriction “provides no discernable medical benefit” to women and questioned lawmakers’ intent in passing the law, known as Act 700
The blocked laws also included a requirement that doctors performing abortions be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. An official with a Little Rock clinic that performs surgical abortions says it has one physician who meets that requirement, but he only works there a few days every other month.
The Arkansas bans are among several sweeping abortion restrictions enacted in Southern and Midwestern states. Baker also blocked a law prohibiting doctors from performing an abortion if it’s being sought because the fetus has Down syndrome. Several states have laws banning abortion for genetic anomalies including Down syndrome. For that law and the 18-week abortion ban, Baker found that both would unconstitutionally restrict abortion before the point of viability, or the likelihood that a fetus could survive outside the womb.
Under current law, a physician licensed to practice medicine in Arkansas can perform abortions. The additional qualification for doctors performing abortions to be board-certified or eligible is similar to a Mississippi law that a federal judge upheld last year. Opponents say the requirement would prevent a large number of physicians from performing the procedure.