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A.G. Schneiderman Leads Amicus Brief Defending Women's Access To Constitutionally-Protected Abortion Services

Coalition of 16 AGs Oppose Four Arkansas State Laws that Severely Curtail Access to Abortion Services, Including Ban on Safest and Most Common Method of Second-Trimester Abortion; Requirements that Teen Abortions be Reported to Local Police and that Sexual Partners or Family Consent to Fetal Tissue Disposal

Attorneys General Argue that the Laws Impose Unconstitutional Undue Burdens on Women’s Rights to Abortion Access

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman led a coalition of 16 Attorneys General in filing an amicus brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, challenging four Arkansas state laws that severely curtail access to abortion in that state.

The laws include a statute that criminalizes the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortion and instead requires women to undergo risky, invasive, and medically unnecessary procedures, as well as requirements that a physician obtain medical records of a patient’s entire pregnancy history prior to performing an abortion; that physicians report abortions had by girls between the ages of 14 and 16 to local police departments; and that a woman’s sexual partner or other family members are notified of and consent to fetal tissue disposal.

“The Constitution protects a woman’s right to access safe and effective abortion services,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Yet across the country, we’re seeing a proliferation of laws that seek to eliminate safe, medically-accepted accepted methods of abortion. We will not stand by while women’s health and constitutional rights are jeopardized by extremist laws.”

Click here to read the full brief, which was led by Attorney General Schneiderman and joined by the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Arkansas’s new statute imposes civil and criminal penalties on doctors who perform the standard dilation and evacuation procedure, which is the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortion. The law would require doctors to alter the procedure by stopping the fetal heartbeat first using one or more of the following procedures: digoxin injection, potassium chloride injection, and umbilical cord transection. The federal district court concluded that these three procedures are experimental and risky, difficult to perform, and potentially ineffective. The other Arkansas laws at issue are a statute that requires a physician to obtain medical records of a patient’s entire pregnancy history prior to performing an abortion, a statute that requires physicians to report abortions had by girls between the ages of 14 and 16 to local police departments, and a statute that requires notification and consent to fetal tissue disposal from both the woman and her sexual partner, or the parents of either in the case of a minor.

In Hopkins v. Jegley, a physician is challenging the four laws and the undue burdens they place on women’s constitutionally-protected abortion rights. The district court held that all four laws are unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction preventing them from taking effect. Arkansas appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The states’ amicus brief urges the court to affirm the district court’s decision.

The Attorneys General argue that under the Supreme Court’s controlling “undue burden” standard, an abortion regulation is unconstitutional when its benefits to a state interest are outweighed by the burdens on abortion access that it imposes. Where, as here, an abortion regulation would in effect ban safe and legal abortions, no purported benefit is sufficient to justify the burden on access. The brief further argues that the three other laws at issue are equally invalid because they fail to advance a legitimate state interest, impose substantial and unwarranted burdens on abortion access, and are impermissibly vague.

This amicus brief follows a number of steps Attorney General Schneiderman has taken to protect women’s reproductive rights, including a brief filed yesterday to protect reproductive healthcare access and lawsuits to protect clinic access.