The Supreme Court refused to take up a case Tuesday regarding an Arkansas law banning abortion when the fetus has a heartbeat, allowing a lower court’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.
Arkansas banned abortions after 12 weeks in 2013 if the doctor can detect a heartbeat in the fetus, but its implementation was quickly stalled when two pro-abortion doctors sued the state. U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright struck down the ban in 2014 as unconstitutional and a violation of the Roe v. Wade stipulation that abortion be legal until the fetus is viably outside the womb.
The 8th Circuit Court later upheld Wright’s ruling on the grounds the Supreme Court has prevented states from prohibiting abortion before a fetus can live outside the womb. A fetus is typically considered viable at 22 weeks, but technological and medical advances have started to blur that line, raising the hopes of some pro-life advocates that the Supreme Court would reconsider past decisions.
By declining Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s request to take up the case Tuesday, the Supreme Court is effectively upholding the 8th Circuit ruling that the ban is unconstitutional. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson supports the law, which was passed after Republican legislators overrode former Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto.
The state senator who sponsored the legislation, Republican Jason Rapert, responded in a statement Tuesday, reported by the Times Record, “While I am of course disappointed in this decision to refuse a review of the court’s concept of ‘viability’ and the obvious need to do so with advances in medical technology, I am at least comforted that all of the informed consent provisions we included in the Arkansas Heartbeat Protection Act have been left intact.”
The courts upheld a requirement that women seeking an abortion after 12 weeks get an ultrasound.
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