Federal Judge Strikes Down Arkansas 12-week Abortion Ban, But It Won't Make That Much Difference

In an (admittedly tiny) step forward, a federal judge struck down an Arkansas law banning abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy Friday. The legislation, which would have been one of the most restrictive in the U.S., was ruled unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who said the law "impermissibly infringes a woman's Fourteenth Amendment right."

Had it gone through, the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act would have made it illegal to get an abortion at or after 12 weeks of pregnancy, the point at which a fetal heartbeat can usually be detected by standard ultrasound. The only exemptions would have been in cases of rape or incest, or if the mother's life were in danger; any doctor who violated the ban would've risked having his or her license taken away by the state medical board.

“The Supreme Court has … stressed that it is not the proper function of the legislature or the courts to place viability at a specific point in the gestation period,” Wright wrote. "The court finds as a matter of law that the twelve-week abortion ban included in [the law] prohibits pre-viability abortions and thus impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability."

While Friday's court ruling definitely went some way in improving the state's attitude towards abortion, a significant section of the law still remains intact: doctors still have to perform an ultrasound and tell the pregnant woman if her fetus has a heartbeat at 12 weeks.

“When someone has to consider that there is a living heartbeat in their womb, we have seen across the country as informed-consent provisions have come out to make sure that a woman is making a decision that they really want to make, oftentimes they will decide not to have that abortion and maybe allow an adoption proceeding to go forward so that they’re not taking the life of a human being,” said Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, the sponsor of the act.

It's unclear where Rapert is getting his facts from, though, as research has shown the opposite to be true. As Bustle previously wrote:

The fact is, though, a study published earlier this month in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that — in spite of claims to the contrary — for women who’ve firmly decided they need to get an abortion, seeing a picture of their fetus on a monitor just won’t make any difference. Of the 42. 5 percent of women in the study who chose to see an ultrasound of their unborn baby, a whopping 98.4 percent still went ahead with the abortion. The people to whom an ultrasound made a difference? Mothers who opted for the ultrasound, but were already on the fence. Which makes sense, really: if you’re already unsure, anything can be the deciding factor.

As it stands, Arkansas is still one of twelve states that have bans on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.