[JURIST] Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel [official website] announced [press release] on Friday that he appeal a federal judge's decision striking down a state law that bans abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Last month US District Judge Susan Webber Wright ruled [JURIST report] that the state law [Act 301, PDF] is unconstitutional and that abortions cannot be restricted until a fetus reaches viability. According to McDaniel, State Senator Jason Rapert, who sponsored Act 301, asked the attorney general to appeal. McDaniel spoke "candidly" with Rapert and agreed to appeal "as long as there would be no impact on the budget of the Arkansas State Medical Board, the defendant in the matter, should the state be required to pay attorney's fees to the plaintiffs." Wright temporarily blocked Act 301 last year and allowed a challenge against the law to proceed [JURIST reports] before finally striking it down in March.
Abortion continues to be a hot-button legal, political and moral issue within the ongoing debate over reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder]. A number of states have proposed laws to make abortions illegal after 20 weeks. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [JURIST report] to continue a block on new Arizona regulations on the use of abortion drugs. Last month the West Virginia legislature approved a bill [JURIST report] to prohibit abortions later than 20 weeks after conception. In February the Mississippi House approved [JURIST report] a 20-week abortion ban. In January the US Supreme Court declined to rule on Arizona's attempt to revive its 20-week ban on abortions after having it was stuck down [JURIST reports] on constitutional grounds by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last May. The US House of Representatives voted [JURIST report] in favor of a federal law banning 20-week abortions in June, but the bill failed [WP report] to gain widespread support in the Democratic-controlled US Senate.