By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – A federal judge on Friday struck down an Arkansas law that would ban most abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy, one of the most restrictive such statutes enacted in the United States, declaring the measure unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled that the law “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability” of the fetus, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Exemptions were allowed in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, if the life of the mother were in danger, or in cases of a gross fetal abnormality that made its survival impossible.
State Senator Jason Rapert, the primary sponsor of the measure, said he was “disturbed” by the ruling but added that the outcome “was not unexpected because of the posture of our courts for the last 40 years.”
Rapert said he nonetheless was gratified that Wright had let stand “one of the strongest informed consent laws in the nation.”
Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas, a Democrat, vetoed the law after it was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature in March 2013, citing its conflict with Supreme Court doctrine, but his veto was overridden.
Rapert said he had urged McDaniel to defend the law, and said a national anti-abortion organization had volunteered to undertake the appeal “at no cost to the Arkansas taxpayers” if the attorney general would designate the group as “special counsel.”
Alabama lawmakers earlier this month approved similar legislation. North Dakota passed a fetal heartbeat law last year that critics said could effectively ban abortions as early as six weeks after conception, but that measure was blocked by a federal judge in July.
(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)
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