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Arkansas Abortion Laws

Abortion is illegal in Arkansas unless necessary to save the pregnant woman's life in a medical emergency.

Arkansas defines a medical emergency as a condition where an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury. It can include a physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.

Under state law, certain acts do not constitute an abortion. These include efforts to save the life or preserve the health of the fetus, remove a dead fetus caused by a spontaneous abortion, or remove an ectopic pregnancy before it possibly kills the pregnant woman.

Arkansas Abortion Law After Dobbs

Prior to 1973, laws on abortion varied among the states. Several states prohibited abortion but provided exceptions. In 1973, abortion became legal nationwide following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade.

States retained the right to regulate the procedure, but only in limited ways. State regulations often became the subject of court cases over how much a specific regulation burdened a pregnant woman's decision to have an abortion.

In 2019, Arkansas enacted a near-total abortion ban. It prohibits all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman. A federal judge blocked enforcement of that statute while Roe was still in effect. Former Governor Asa Hutchinson indicated state lawmakers wanted to use the law to overturn the holding of Roe.

On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, ending the right to abortion under the federal constitution. This decision fully returned the issue of abortion to the states. As a result, Arkansas' 2019 abortion ban became state law.

The Arkansas abortion ban retains the support of the majority of members in the state legislature in Little Rock. Both the current Republican Arkansas Governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the state attorney general oppose abortion and support the current prohibition.

The Future of Abortion in Arkansas

Since Dobbs, proponents of abortion rights have brought challenges to restrictive laws, often seeking protection for a right to privacy under state constitutional law. In several states, organizers have placed election-year referenda on the ballot to allow voters to create or protect a state constitutional right to reproductive health care, including abortion services.

In some states, including Arkansas, there may be several abortion restrictions in state law. If the legislature passes a new law without repealing an old one, it can lead to confusion over what laws remain in effect.

For example, an Arkansas state health regulation amended in 2021 provides an abortion exception for minors seeking to end a pregnancy in cases of rape and incest if they can provide documentation that they reported the assault to law enforcement.

Although this health law remains on the books, it is unclear whether it was overridden by Arkansas' trigger law that placed a criminal prohibition on abortion following the Dobbs decision in 2022.

Healthcare providers may refuse to provide abortion care due to this ambiguity. If your child or someone you know faces these difficult circumstances, it's important to speak to a local attorney to learn your options.

In Arkansas, abortion rights groups are collecting signatures in an attempt to allow the public to vote on a constitutional amendment in the November 2024 election. The ballot initiative is called the Arkansas Abortion Amendment. If passed by the voters, it would allow a pregnant person to obtain an abortion until 18 weeks of pregnancy.

Beyond that period, abortion would only be permitted in cases of rape, incest, or to preserve the life of the pregnant woman due to a medical emergency. If organizers succeed in getting the matter to the ballot, Arkansans will weigh in on the future of abortion in their state. This area of the law remains highly fluid.

Arkansas Abortion Laws at a Glance

Arkansas has well over 150 laws and regulations related to abortion. The following chart contains an overview of key abortion laws in Arkansas. Please remember that while summaries of the law are helpful tools, it's important to also read the statute itself and to consider getting legal advice for a complete understanding of the impact of the law in a given situation.

Relevant Arkansas Abortion Statutes (Laws)

Arkansas Code, Title 5, Criminal Offenses, Chapter 61, Abortion (Sections 5-61-101 to 5-61-404):

Arkansas Code, Title 20, Public Health and Welfare, Chapter 16, Reproductive Health (Sections 20-16-101 to 20-16-2509):


When Is Abortion Legal?

In Arkansas, abortion is only legal to save the life of the pregnant woman in cases of medical emergency.

Charges and Penalties for Unlawful Abortion

Performing an unlawful abortion is an unclassified felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

Consent Requirements

Adults: voluntary and informed consent is required at least 72 hours before the abortion, except in the case of a medical emergency.

Minors: notarized written consent of the pregnant woman and one of her parents or her legal guardian is required. The consent requirement may be waived if there's a medical emergency or a court bypass order.

Incompetent Person: written, notarized consent of the legal guardian is required.

Physician Licensing Requirements

Only physicians can perform abortions in Arkansas. They must be licensed to practice medicine in the state. They must also be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are reviewing.

How Arkansas Compares to Other States

Arkansas' state ban on all abortions except those to save the life of the mother is more restrictive than most other states. As a result, no abortion clinics are operating in Arkansas as of early 2024.

Planned Parenthood and other organizations remain open in the state and provide a variety of health care and family planning services other than abortion. Those seeking an elective abortion often travel to an abortion provider out of state.

A Note About Medication Abortion

Arkansas law includes statutes regulating and limiting the provision of medication abortion services. In light of the state ban on abortion, these regulations may be redundant to some extent. Notably, a specific state law prohibits access to medication abortion drugs through the USPS or other delivery services.

Since 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a two-drug regimen of abortion pills. The first drug in this process is mifepristone. In 2016 and 2021, the FDA approved changes in the drug's prescription and distribution, making it easier for those seeking access to obtain it.

Medication abortion forms the basis of the majority of abortions in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Abortion opponents filed a legal challenge to the FDA's approval and permitted use of mifepristone in 2022 in a Texas district court. Although one lower court judge issued an injunction on the drug's use, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed all lower court rulings and is now expected to issue a decision on the matter in 2024.

Arkansas Abortion Laws: Related Resources

If you'd like additional information or resources related to the State of Arkansas or reproductive health matters, please visit the links listed below:

Have Specific Questions About Arkansas Abortion Laws? Talk to a Lawyer

Deciding on issues related to abortion can be hard for personal reasons, but it can be more difficult if you don't know the law. Abortion access can differ based on each state's laws.

Living in Arkansas, you may also want to know the laws on reproductive health care in Kansas and Oklahoma. If you have any questions about the abortion laws in Arkansas or its neighboring states, it's best to contact a local healthcare attorney who can explain how these laws may apply to your unique situation.

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