Arkansas asks judge to dismiss abortion ban suit

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Associated Press

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 7 at 3:06 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The state of Arkansas on Tuesday asked a federal judge to dismiss an effort to overturn a new law banning most abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy, arguing the restriction is constitutional and furthers the state's interests.

The attorney general's office responded to the lawsuit filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights. The groups filed the suit on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, who provide abortions at a Little Rock clinic.

Representing the state Medical Board, the AG's office argued the plaintiffs don't have standing to challenge the law since it hasn't taken effect yet. The measure isn't set to take effect until sometime in August.

The AG's office said in its brief that the restriction is constitutional and argued it didn't place a "substantial" obstacle before women seeking an abortion before the fetus is considered viable.

"Act 301 furthers the state's legitimate interests in protecting the life and health of the pregnant woman, protecting the life of the fetus that may become a child, and protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession," the brief said.

The Republican-led Legislature enacted the ban in March when it overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of the measure. Beebe and other opponents of the ban say it violated the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside the womb. A fetus is generally considered viable at 22 to 24 weeks.

The lawsuit filed last month argues that Edwards and Tvedten could lose their licenses if they provide abortions starting at the 12th week of pregnancy, saying the law denies "patients their constitutionally-guaranteed right to decide to end a pre-viability pregnancy." It names members of the State Medical Board as defendants because the board is responsible for licensing medical professionals.

The measure won't take effect until 90 days after the Legislature formally adjourns this year's session, which lawmakers are scheduled to do May 17. That day a federal judge is also scheduled to hold a hearing over the lawsuit.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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