Federal appeals court strikes down 12-week abortion ban
ST. LOUIS, MO, May 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A federal appeals court struck down one of the strongest pro-life laws in the nation, an Arkansas “heartbeat” bill, today.
The Human Heartbeat Protection Act barred abortionists from aborting a baby after 12 weeks if “the fetus that a pregnant woman is carrying possesses a detectible heartbeat.”
In November 2013, the Republican-controlled state legislature enacted the bill – which has exceptions to protect the life of the mother, for rape or incest, and for “a medical emergency” – by overriding the veto of then-Gov. Michael Beebe, a Democrat who supported abortion-on-demand.
The law was struck down last March by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who became infamous for dismissing Paula Jones' sexual harassment lawsuit against sitting president, Bill Clinton.
The federal judges upheld her decision in Louis Edwards v. Joseph Beck on the grounds that a child at 12 weeks is not considered viable outside the womb.
“By banning abortions after 12 weeks’ gestation, the Act prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy at a point before viability,” the three-judge panel of the St. Louis-based appeals court ruled. “Because the state made no attempt to refute the plaintiffs’ assertions” that a child at 12 weeks is non-viable, “the district court’s summary judgment order must be affirmed.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has twice ruled that viability is the date at which states may begin to restrict unfettered abortion-on-demand. However, the federal judges noted that date has, and will continue, to creep downward, from 28 weeks in 1973 to 24 weeks in 1992.
“Undeniably, medical and technological advances along with mankind’s ever increasing knowledge of prenatal life since” the Court's Roe and Casey rulings make determining a “viability standard more difficult.”
They cited the case of Amillia Taylor, a 10-ounce baby girl who survived being born at 21 weeks. Earlier this month, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study finding that nearly one-quarter of babies born at 22 weeks can survive if given medical treatment. The panel ruled that courts must have the scientific tools “to examine viability, case by case, as viability steadily moves back towards conception.”
All three judges – Lavenski R. Smith, Bobby E. Shepherd, and Duane Benton Smith – were appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush. Smith had been appointed to the Arkansas Supreme Court by Gov. Mike Huckabee.
With the replacement of Gov. Beebe by Republican Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas has passed more pro-life laws in 2015 than any other state, according to both the pro-life Americans United for Life and the pro-abortion Center for Reproductive Rights.
Legislators have passed bills defunding Planned Parenthood, requiring parental consent for minors, banning telemed abortions, setting a 48-hour waiting period before abortions, and requiring abortionists to inform women that a drug-induced abortion can be reversed.
Arkansas Right to Life has announced that passing a ban on dismemberment abortions in 2017 will be a top legislative priority.