A federal judge has blocked the state of Arkansas from enforcing four new abortion restrictions.
U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction late Friday against the new abortion restrictions, three of which were set to take effect Tuesday.
The laws include a ban on a common procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Abortion-rights supporters contend it’s the safest and most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions. Abortion activists also argued that doing away with the procedure would make it impossible for women to get an abortion in their second trimester.
Pro-life groups criticized the procedure, which is surgical, as “barbaric.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Reproductive Rights sued Arkansas over the restrictions, which lawmakers approved earlier this year. The two groups sued on behalf of Dr. Frederick Hopkins, a Little Rock abortion provider. The groups say the laws would make it nearly impossible for many women in the state to get an abortion.
“(The law) would essentially end access to second-trimester abortions in Arkansas,” Brigitte Amiri, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told NBC News.
Similar bans are in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia and have been blocked by court rulings in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. A ban approved in Texas will take effect in September and is also being challenged in court. The groups said the ban would have a devastating impact, while the state argued that alternative procedures are available.
“The threatened harm to Dr. Hopkins and the fraction of women for whom the Mandate is relevant clearly outweighs whatever damage or harm a proposed injunction may cause the State of Arkansas,” Baker wrote in her ruling.
Baker’s ruling also halted a law that would have imposed new restrictions on the disposal of fetal remains from abortions. The plaintiffs argued that it could also block access by requiring notification of a third party, such as the woman’s sexual partner or her parents, to determine what happens to the fetal remains. The state has said the law does not require permission or notice from those third parties before an abortion and includes several provisions that ensure notice or consent is not required to dispose of the fetal remains.
Baker said the law would dissuade doctors from performing abortions and create significant delays for women seeking the procedure.
Baker also blocked part of a law set to take effect in January that would ban abortions based solely on the fetus’ sex. 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 plaintiffs say the requirement would violate a patient’s privacy and indefinitely delay a woman’s access to abortion.
The judge also blocked a law that would expand a requirement that physicians performing abortions for patients under 14 take certain steps to preserve embryonic or fetal tissue and notify police where the minor resides. The new measure, which was also set to take effect Tuesday, would have raised the age requirement to less than 17 years of age.
The block came hours after a federal court panel cleared the way for Arkansas to enforce a law that will limit how the abortion pill can be administered. Baker blocked the 2015 law that required doctors who provide such pills to maintain a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who agrees to handle any complications.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.