Regardless of where you happen to fall on issues surrounding Planned Parenthood and abortion, it is well worth your while to keep an eye on the judicial system in the months to come for decisions that could have major impacts on Arkansas.
First, let’s take a look at Planned Parenthood. Governor Asa Hutchinson ordered Planned Parenthood removed from the list of Medicaid providers a couple of months ago after videos surfaced allegedly showing its personnel negotiating the sale of fetal body parts for profit.
Three Arkansas women challenged that decision, resulting in a federal court issuing an injunction ordering Planned Parenthood’s services to continue for those three women. Naturally, lawyers for Planned Parenthood have filed for class action status covering all of its Medicaid patients in Arkansas.
If those patients are granted class action status, then Hutchinson’s decision to cut of Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood in Arkansas could essentially be rendered moot. The state has appealed the injunction and it seems clear this issue will be tangled up in the federal courts system for some time.
Meanwhile, the abortion issue has popped up again in the form of the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act of 2013. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis struck down that law’s 12-week abortion ban and state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to reverse that decision.
Apparently, Rutledge figured she might as well take a swipe or two at Roe v. Wade – the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court which legalized abortion. That case also set the cutoff date for an abortion at the viability date of the fetus, which generally occurs during the 23rd week of pregnancy. The 12-week cutoff in the Arkansas law violated that viability date, according to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
At this point, is it up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to issue a writ of certiorari and grant the appeal. If the Supreme Court doesn’t take up the case, the issue dies there and the Human Heartbeat Protection Act will pretty much cease to exist as state law because the primary parts of it will be unenforceable.
Considering how the Supreme Court routinely strikes down laws that conflict with Roe, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see the Human Heartbeat Protection Act suffer a similar fate.
This column was authored by Ethan C. Nobles and originally appeared in the Oct. 13, 2015, edition of the Daily Record in Little Rock.
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