On Monday the ACLU filed a motion in federal court to block four pro-life laws from going into effect in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Legislature enacted these laws in 2017, but they have been tied up in litigation ever since.

The laws are:

  • Act 45 of 2017 prohibiting certain surgical abortion procedures that dismember a living unborn child.
  • Act 733 of 2017 prohibiting abortions performed due to the baby’s sex.
  • Act 1018 of 2017 requiring abortionists to report abortions performed on any girl under the age of 17 to the State Crime Lab in case the girl turns out to be the victim of sexual assault.
  • Act 603 of 2017 prohibiting biomedical and behavioral research on aborted fetal remains and requiring aborted fetal remains to be disposed of according to the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker initially blocked the laws from going into effect in 2017, but a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted her injunction last August.

Last week the Eighth Circuit denied the ACLU’s request for a re-hearing before the entire court.

Now the ACLU has asked the federal district court in Little Rock for a temporary restraining order against the four laws.

If granted, a temporary restraining order would prevent the State of Arkansas from enforcing these laws until the ACLU could challenge them further in court.

These are good laws that protect women from dangerous abortion practices and will save the lives of hundreds of unborn children every year.

Without a restraining order, the laws would go into effect tomorrow. However, the ACLU’s latest motion likely means the laws will remain tied up in litigation for the time being.

That said, so far these laws have fared very well in court, and they can’t remain in court forever. Eventually the courts will have to rule on the laws, and there’s a good possibility that all four of them will be upheld.

Below is a timeline of the legislative history and legal challenge surrounding these laws over the past four years:

  • January 26, 2017: The Arkansas Legislature passed Act 45 prohibiting some dismemberment abortion procedures, and sent the bill to Governor Hutchinson to be signed into law. Arkansas’ laws prohibiting sex-selection abortion, expanding the reporting requirements for abortions performed on underage girls, and prohibiting the buying and selling of aborted babies passed in the following weeks.
  • June 20, 2017: The ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging these four pro-life laws in court.
  • July 28, 2017: U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction blocking the State of Arkansas from enforcing these four laws. Judge Baker issued the injunction before the laws could go into effect. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • March 19, 2020: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals indicated it would not make a decision on Judge Baker’s injunction until after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the June Medical Services v. Russo case. The Supreme Court’s decision in that case was expected to have implications for other pro-life laws.
  • June 29, 2020: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana pro-life law in its June Medical Services v. Russo ruling.
  • August 7, 2020: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s preliminary injunction against the laws. The Eighth Circuit sent Arkansas’ pro-life laws back down to Judge Baker’s court for reconsideration in light of nuances in the June Medical Services decision. The ACLU appealed that decision to the entire Eighth Circuit.
  • December 15, 2020: The Eighth Circuit declined to re-hear the ACLU’s case against the laws before the entire court.
  • December 21, 2020: The ACLU asked the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas for a temporary restraining order against the laws.