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.

Bad Bill Filed to Let Pharmacists Dispense Oral Contraceptives in Arkansas

Last Thursday Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) and Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville) filed H.B. 1069 letting pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives in Arkansas.

The bill is virtually identical to H.B. 1290 of 2019 — a bill that Family Council opposed at the Arkansas Legislature two years ago.

Family Council opposes this type of legislation primarily for two reasons.

First, oral contraceptives carry a number of health risks — including heart attack, blood clots in the lungs, and bleeding in the brain. That’s why these pills currently require a prescription from a doctor. Letting pharmacists dispense them without the oversight of a physician jeopardizes women’s health.

Second, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration, the hormone in oral contraceptives can cause the death of an unborn child. These drugs not only prevent the conception of unborn children, but they can also prevent an unborn child from implanting inside the mother’s womb, causing the child to die and be miscarried.

H.B. 1069 also contains language requiring pharmacists to refer women to “a women’s healthcare provider.” In 2019 there were concerns that this language might encourage pharmacists to refer women to Planned Parenthood facilities.

In 2019 some supporters of this type of legislation said that it would help address teen pregnancy in Arkansas. The reality is H.B. 1069 fails to adequately address teen pregnancy.

First, the bill doesn’t let pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives to minors. Eighteen and nineteen year old women are the only teenagers who would be able to purchase oral contraceptives from a pharmacist.

Second, we have decades of data demonstrating that laws and programs increasing access to contraceptives don’t reduce teen pregnancy.

A 2017 report by the Heritage Foundation revealed that government programs promoting contraceptives to teenagers have failed to reduce teen pregnancy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, people like former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, former Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, and former Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders promoted contraceptives and comprehensive sex-education programs in public schools as part of a campaign to reduce teen pregnancy. Gov. Clinton’s administration in particular worked to promote and establish school-based health clinics that distributed contraceptives.

In 1997 Arkansas began actively awarding federal grant money to abstinence-based sex education programs. From 1997 – 2003, teen birth rates in Arkansas fell by 16%, and teen abortion rates plummeted by 37%.

When it’s all said and done, legislation like H.B. 1069 simply is not the way to address teen pregnancy in Arkansas.

Federal Judge Again Blocks Arkansas From Enforcing Pro-Life Laws

On Tuesday U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a temporary restraining preventing the State of Arkansas from enforcing four pro-life laws the legislature passed in 2017.

The four pro-life 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.

This is the second time in three years that U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker has blocked these laws.

After the ACLU sued to have the laws struck down, Judge Baker blocked the laws from going into effect in 2017

However, a three-judge panel from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted her injunction last August, and last week the Eighth Circuit denied the ACLU’s request for a re-hearing before the entire court.

This week the ACLU asked Judge Baker to issue a temporary restraining order against the four laws. The group also asked her to enjoin the laws altogether.

Judge Baker’s restraining order will last until Tuesday, January 5. Between now and then she will have the option of issuing a preliminary injunction that will block the laws while the lawsuit surrounding them continues.

Judge Baker has given the abortionists in Arkansas practically everything they have ever asked for in court — and we have seen her rulings overturned by the Eighth Circuit.

In fact last April the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a writ of mandamus against Judge Baker saying she overstepped her judicial authority after she decided to let abortionists in Little Rock continue operating in spite of state directives ordering elective surgical abortions to be postponed due to COVID-19.

In light of that, it’s no surprise that Judge Baker has blocked Arkansas from enforcing these good, pro-life laws.

However, there is a good possibility that the Eighth Circuit ultimately will reverse her decision and pave the way for these laws to go into effect — which could save hundreds of unborn children in Arkansas every single year.