Just before midnight on July 28, US District Court Judge Kristine Baker took a major step toward protecting the right to choose in Arkansas. The state first made headlines in June after lawmakers greenlit a set of incredibly draconian laws aimed at deterring or preventing women from getting abortions. Together, these four restrictions targeted all aspects of the right to choose, from requiring a woman to inform the man who impregnated her if she chose to abort to blocking the most common abortion procedure to instituting new, cumbersome rules around the disposal of fetuses. The state went to great lengths to make sure that the rules would not only make it difficult to acquire a legal abortion, but also make it difficult on the emotional side of things as well. The ACLU went so far as to call the measures “invasive, medically unnecessary, burdensome hurdles that do nothing to advance women’s health and are tantamount to outright abortion bans for many women” and went on to challenge the Arkansas legislature in court.
Three of the four laws were set to go into place on Aug. 1, regardless of the outstanding motions against them. But just four days before they were set to take effect, Judge Baker succeeded where others had not been able to in the weeks prior: she filed an emergency injunction, successfully barring the state from moving ahead with implementation.
“The Court is not convinced that importing the (disposal law’s) complex requirements for authorization advances a public health goal,” Baker wrote in her ruling. “These requirements also do not advance interests in women’s health because delay and other negative effects instead threaten women’s health and wellbeing.” In other words: there’s an appalling lack of humanity in making a victim of sexual assault confront her assailant in order to essentially secure permission for an abortion or to require a woman to disclose all past pregnancy history to a doctor after opting for an abortion. There’s just no world in which that’s not an attempt to criminalize the act. But thanks to Kristine Baker, women are now free from such condescending, potentially dangerous legislation – at least for the time being.
The battle isn’t over quite yet, of course. There will likely be a fierce court battle bolstered, and lawmakers in the state are already devising new legislation, such as limitation on how abortion pills can be administered. In fact, that new proposal began making the rounds just hours before Baker was able to stop the previous four laws from taking hold. But it’s important to recognize a victory for what it is: a victory. “Arkansas women can feel a little relief today, knowing that these laws are blocked from taking effect,” the executive director of the ACLU said in a statement. And here’s hoping that there are more individuals like Kristine Baker out there, ready to champion the rights that we deserve in our day-to-day lives.