Supreme Court Refuses to Consider 12-Week Abortion Ban

Extreme Arkansas Law is Unconstitutional

January 19, 2016 10:15 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Supreme Court today refused to review Arkansas’s ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy — allowing a May 2015 ruling from an appellate court striking the measure to stand.

Arkansas’s SB 134 attempted to ban abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy with only narrow exceptions in certain cases of rape, incest, and medical emergencies. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the ACLU of Arkansas filed suit in April 2013 on behalf of two physicians who provide abortions in Little Rock.

“Arkansas cannot veto a woman’s decision to have an abortion, period,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “This personal, medical decision rests with a woman, her family, and her doctor – not politicians. We are gratified but unsurprised that the Court found nothing worthy of their review in this case.”

A federal district judge struck down SB134 in March 2014, saying the extreme measure would “prevent a woman’s constitutional right to elect to have an abortion before viability.” Earlier this fall, after the U.S Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit permanently blocked the ban in May 2015, Arkansas asked the Supreme Court to review the appellate court’s decision.

For over forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently recognized that the Constitution protects a woman’s right to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Thus, states cannot prohibit abortion prior to viability, as this Arkansas ban would have done.

“Arkansas politicians can’t pick and choose which parts of the Constitution they want to uphold,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The Supreme Court has never wavered in affirming that every woman has a right to safely and legally end a pregnancy in the U.S — and this extreme abortion ban was a direct affront to that right.”

The Supreme Court refused to review a decision permanently blocking Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy in 2013, and courts in Idaho and Georgia have also recently blocked similar pre-viability bans. In late 2015, North Dakota asked the Supreme Court to review a similarly unconstitutional measure which bans abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy.

Today’s order comes just over two months after the Supreme Court agreed to review Texas’s clinic shutdown law— a measure that has already shuttered half of the abortion providers in Texas, and is poised to leave the nation’s second-largest state with 10 or fewer abortion clinics.


Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.