A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an Arkansas law banning nearly all abortions, calling it an “imminent threat” to the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions in the state.
Judge Kristine Baker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued a preliminary injunction, preventing the law from being enforced until she can issue a final ruling.
Baker, responding to the challenge brought by advocates of abortion rights, wrote that bans on abortions before a fetus is considered viable are “categorically unconstitutional.”
The ban was set to go into effect on July 28 after being signed into law by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson in March. The ban, which is one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, would prevent any abortions except in situations that would save the life of the mother, and does not include exceptions for rape or incest.
The Republican-controlled state legislature in Arkansas had positioned the bill as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, writing in the bill’s text that “it is time for the United States Supreme Court to redress and correct the grave injustice and the crime against humanity which is being perpetuated” by the precedent set by the 1973 decision and other abortion cases.
The law would also make it a felony to perform an abortion in Arkansas, with a penalty of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in jail.
“Today’s ruling demonstrates that the court fully understands the harmful and immediate effects this law would have on Arkansans,” said Brandon Hill, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.
Republicans in a handful of other states have passed anti-abortion legislation seeking to challenge Roe v. Wade in attempts to get a case before a Supreme Court that now has a 6-3 conservative majority.
Hutchinson, who signed the bill despite expressing concerns that it did not include provisions for abortions in cases of rape or incest, said in March that he understands the ban is “not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now.”
“I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Hutchinson’s statement that the law was unconstitutional was cited in the complaint, which called the law “a direct affront to almost half a century of unbroken Supreme Court precedent.” The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and others filed a challenge to the ban in May.
The Supreme Court said in May that it would review a ban in Mississippi on abortions past 15 weeks of pregnancy.
And this month, abortion rights advocates in Texas filed a lawsuit seeking to block a new state law that allows individuals to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.
The Texas law is set to take effect in September and incentivizes private citizens to help enforce the ban on abortions — awarding at least $10,000 if their lawsuit is successful.