LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Abortion rights supporters said Thursday four new Arkansas laws they're trying to block would create unnecessary delays for women seeking the procedure and could effectively require a partner's consent beforehand, while the state argued the groups are coming up with problems that don't exist in the new restrictions.
A federal judge did not rule on the challenge to the new laws, three of which are set to take effect Aug. 1, after a roughly two hour hearing. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have sued the state over the new restrictions on behalf of a Little Rock abortion provider.
"These laws are unconstitutional and cannot be allowed to take effect," Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU's Reproductive Freedom Project, told U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker.
The laws being challenged include a ban on a procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Abortion-rights supporters contend it's the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. Similar bans are in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia, while other bans in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have been blocked by court rulings. A ban approved in Texas will take effect in September. The groups said the ban would have a devastating impact, while the state argued alternative procedures are available.
Deputy Solicitor General Nick Bronni said the doctor challenging the measures "spends most of his time conjuring problems that don't actually exist on the face of the statute in order to find obstacles hiding in the shadows."
Another new law, imposing new restrictions on how fetal tissue from abortions is disposed of, could also block access by requiring notification of a third party, such as the woman's sexual partner or her parents, to determine how the fetus would be disposed of, the groups argued.
"Plaintiff cannot provide an abortion without providing notice and getting consent to method of disposal from these people because he can't do an abortion without knowing he can dispose of the tissue afterwards without going to jail," Camp said.
Bronni said the law doesn't require permission or notice from those third parties before an abortion and includes several provisions that ensure notice or consent isn't required to dispose of the fetal remains.
The groups are also challenging part of a law that takes effect in January to ban abortions are based solely on whether the mother wants to have a boy or girl. The groups are challenging the law's requirement that a doctor performing the abortion first request records related to the entire pregnancy history of the woman. The groups argue the requirement would violate a patient's privacy and indefinitely delay a woman's access to abortion.
The other law challenged by the groups expands the requirement that physicians performing abortions for patients under 14 take certain steps to preserve embryonic or fetal tissue and to notify local police where the minor resides. The new measure raises the age requirement to less than 17 years of age.
Baker did not indicate when she would rule on the request to temporarily block the laws.
A hearing is scheduled next month in a separate effort block a new state law requiring the state to suspend or revoke the license of abortion providers for any rule or law violation. The lawsuit was filed by Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Little Rock Family Planning Services.
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