Three-Judge Panel Affirms Lower Court Injunction Blocking Two Pro-Life Laws in Arkansas

On Tuesday a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s injunction that blocked two pro-life laws the Arkansas Legislature passed in 2019.

The laws are:

  • Act 493 of 2019, prohibiting abortion after the eighteenth week of pregnancy, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.
  • Act 619 of 2019, prohibiting abortion of an unborn baby solely because the child has Down Syndrome.

These laws passed with overwhelming support from state lawmakers in 2019, but abortionists filed a lawsuit to have them overturned.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued an injunction blocking the state from enforcing the laws. Today a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit affirmed her injunction based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent regarding abortion.

However, Circuit Judge Shepherd and Circuit Judge Erickson both wrote opinions calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to “reevaluate its jurisprudence” regarding abortion and asking the supreme court to revisit its bad Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision.

Judge Erickson even went so far as to note that, “In Western society, there is currently no more threatened population than children with Down syndrome.”

So where do things go from here?

It’s possible the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office will appeal today’s decision to the entire Eighth Circuit. That would give the full Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals an opportunity to weigh in on the laws.

It’s also possible that the ruling will help lawmakers craft better pro-life legislation that will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of ending abortion in Arkansas.

Family Council’s Greatest Hits From 2020

Members of the team from Family Council stand with AUL’s 2020 Life List recognizing Arkansas as the most pro-life state in the country.

It’s been a busy year. The coronavirus outbreak forced us to make some adjustments to how we work, but our team at Family Council met those challenges head-on. Here’s a quick rundown of just a few of our “greatest hits” from 2020.

Seeing Arkansas Named the Most Pro-Life State in America. Ten years ago we set out to make Arkansas the most pro-life state in America. By working together with others, we have done that. Americans United for Life recently released its Life List 2021 naming Arkansas the most pro-life state in the nation. Becoming the most pro-life state wasn’t easy. It took a lot of work by a lot of different people. Arkansas now has the opportunity to become a true, nationwide leader in the effort to end abortion.

Distributing 65,000 Arkansas Voter’s Guides. Since 1990 Family Council has produced Arkansas’ only statewide, nonpartisan voter’s guide. We survey the candidates on abortion, guns, education, taxes, or other issues, and we publish their responses in print and online. We also survey some of the judicial candidates, and we summarize any proposals that appear on the ballot. This year we distributed approximately 65,000 printed copies of the Arkansas Voter’s Guide for the primary and general elections, and we had thousands more people view candidate surveys and information at Family Council’s voter’s guides helped tens of thousands of Arkansans choose the candidates that best reflect their values. That’s something to celebrate.

Lawmakers and others gather outside the surgical abortion facility in Little Rock on April 10, 2020, shortly after the facility was ordered to stop performing elective surgical abortions due to COVID-19.

Shining the Light on Abortion Facilities Daily During the Pandemic. During the COVID-19 shutdowns last spring, our team reported almost daily from outside the abortion facilities in Little Rock. You may have seen some of the videos we streamed from the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood or Little Rock Family Planning Services. Those videos helped expose how abortionists were continuing to operate despite state health directives prohibiting elective surgical procedures—and how women were travelling to Arkansas from other states for abortions during the pandemic.

Receiving the Mary Rose Doe Award. Family Council was honored to receive the Mary Rose Doe Award on Monday, January 27, 2020, at Arkansas Right to Life’s banquet. Since 1985 Arkansas Right to Life has bestowed the award on individuals and organizations that go the extra mile in fighting for unborn children. Arkansas Right to Life President Andy Mayberry surprised Jerry and the staff by presenting Family Council with the Mary Rose Doe Award in recognition of 30 years of pro-life work in the state.

From Left: Charisse Cooksey, Luke McCoy, Jerry Cox, Doris Cox, Ken Yang, and Erin Hogan pose with the 2020 Mary Rose Doe Award.

Helping Churches Navigate COVID-19. Last spring and summer we received dozens of phone calls, emails, and questions from ministers around the state asking us for advice on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team was in regular communication with state health officials, and we were able to explain the state’s health directives and guidelines to folks all over Arkansas. We were able to help churches find ways to meet without having to worry that they might run afoul of the Arkansas Department of Health.

Hosting Monthly Prayer Meetings. Family Council has hosted monthly prayer meetings all year long. We started the year by hosting these meetings at the Arkansas Capitol Building. After COVID hit, we moved those meetings online. These prayer meetings are an opportunity for believers to lift up our state leaders in prayer. We are very grateful that there are dedicated Arkansans who did not let the outbreak stop them from praying for those in authority. If you would like to be part of these monthly prayer meetings or if you would like to receive prayer requests from our office via email from time to time, give us a call at (501) 375-7000.

Closely Monitoring Pro-Abortion Groups. Our team has kept a watchful eye on pro-abortion groups all year long. Besides reporting from Little Rock’s abortion facilities last spring, we have also monitored Planned Parenthood’s campaign reports and job openings. We have paid close attention to lawsuits Little Rock Family Planning Services and the ACLU have filed to overturn some of Arkansas’ pro-life laws. We’ve reported every time pro-abortion groups like NARAL endorsed candidates in Arkansas. We’ve also kept close tabs on new pro-abortion groups, like Reproaction. Reproaction tries to appeal to younger women and is more aggressively pro-abortion than groups like Planned Parenthood. In May Family Council staff member Erin Hogan attended a virtual seminar Reproaction held teaching women about do-it-yourself chemical abortions at home. Earlier this year we alerted key individuals around the state about ways that these pro-abortion groups seemed to be working to make inroads on Arkansas’ college campuses. We plan to continue monitoring these groups and reporting what we learn in 2021.

Helping Stop Public Drinking in Siloam Springs. In May, Family Council helped alert our friends in Northwest Arkansas about a proposed city ordinance that would have permitted public drinking throughout much of downtown Siloam Springs. City officials heard overwhelmingly from their constituents. When it was all said and done, the city opted not to legalize public drinking. Public drinking is a scourge on the community. It raises serious concerns about drunk driving and public safety. It hurts neighborhoods and families. That’s why Family Council was pleased to do our part to keep public drinking out of downtown Siloam Springs.

Equipping Arkansans to Pass Pro-Life Resolutions. Family Council drafted model ordinances that cities and counties can use to declare themselves Pro-Life. We have distributed the language for these ordinances to supporters around the state. Our goal is to see hundreds of Pro-Life Cities and Pro-Life Counties designated all over Arkansas.

Good and Bad Legislation Filed So Far

Lawmakers began pre-filing legislation for the 2021 session in November.

Our team has reviewed every bill pre-filed so far.

Here are some good and bad pieces of legislation we are watching.

Good Bill: S.B. 6 Ending Abortion in Arkansas. S.B. 6 by Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R – Perryville) would prohibit abortion in Arkansas except in cases when the mother’s life is at risk. If passed, it would give our federal courts the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade and other pro-abortion decisions. Family Council fully supports this good bill.

Bad Bills: S.B. 3 and H.B. 1020 Enacting Hate Crimes Legislation in Arkansas. S.B. 3 and H.B. 1020 by Sen. Jim Hendren (R – Gravette) and Rep. Fred Love (D – Little Rock) would write special, protected classes into Arkansas law by enacting hate crimes legislation. The bills are identical to one another. Family Council has opposed hate crimes legislation for more than 25 years, and we oppose these two bills as well.