Federal Court Reverses Block on Arkansas Abortion Law, Citing John Roberts

Federal Court Reverses Block on Arkansas Abortion Law, Citing John Roberts
Federal appeals judges used Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion in June Medical v. Russo—the Supreme Court’s recent decision protecting abortion access—to allow several Arkansas abortion restrictions to go back into effect. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday to lift a block on four restrictive abortion laws passed in Arkansas.

“This ruling is a reminder that the fight against these extreme abortion restrictions is far from won,” said Holly Dickson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas. “We are evaluating our next steps and will continue to fight to ensure these harmful and unconstitutional laws do not take effect.”

Included within the laws is a limit on a procedure common in second-trimester abortions and a provision that allows a person to litigate a doctor to stop their partner’s abortion. The ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights initially litigated the laws on behalf of a Little Rock Abortion provider named Dr. Fredrick Hopkins.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals cited Chief Justice John Roberts’s recent opinion in June Medical v. Russo as its reasoning for lifting the temporary injunction. In a footnote, the Chief Justice wrote that the “validity of admitting privileges law depend[s] on numerous factors that may differ from state to state.”

This, coupled with the line, “state and federal legislatures [have] wide discretion to pass legislation in areas where there is medical and scientific uncertainty” were used as justification for the court’s ruling. These lines essentially imply that restrictive laws using alternative justifications can be implemented without violating the Constitution.

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“The Supreme Court just weeks ago reaffirmed that a state cannot pass laws that unduly burden a person’s access to abortion, and that is exactly what these laws do,” said Hillary Schneller, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The laws are now set to take effect August 28.

“While the June Medical decision prevented immediate disaster for Louisiana, the anti-choice minority will always find a way to exercise their obsessions and control our reproductive freedom,” Heidi Sieck, CEO of #VOTEPROCHOICE.

“Now the situation is dire: Starting August 28, Arkansans will be denied their right to personal autonomy and reproductive choice because of the carefully chosen words of Chief Justice Roberts. This was his exact intent at the time.”


The Feminist Majority Foundation works for social and political and economic equality for women by using research and education to improve women's lives. On Dec. 31, 2001, the Feminist Majority Foundation became the sole owner of Liberty Media, and began publishing Ms., relocating its editorial operations to the organization’s offices in Los Angeles and the publishing operations to its Arlington, Va., office.