Arkansas Passes a Near-Total Abortion Ban with No Exceptions for Rape or Incest

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that he hopes the ban will be challenged by abortion rights activists and move up to the Supreme Court, where it could reverse Roe v. Wade

Abortion Rights
Anti-abortion protesters and pro-choice activists clash outside the Supreme Court. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

Arkansas has passed a near-total abortion ban that outlaws any procedures, even in the case of rape or incest, unless the life of the fetus or the mother is in danger, making it one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S. Supporters hope that it will eventually be argued in the Supreme Court, where it could reverse the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that grants the right to an abortion nationwide.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 6 into law on Tuesday, which states that performing or attempting to perform an abortion is an unclassified felony, and anyone who is charged with doing so faces time in prison or fines of up to $100,000.

The bill is unconstitutional based on the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and expected to be struck down in state courts, much like similar bills in Alabama, Ohio and Georgia have over the past few years. But that is the intention of the bill, Hutchinson said, and he hopes that it will eventually make its way to the Supreme Court, where a conservative majority — now solidified with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in place of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — could use this case to strike down Roe v. Wade nationwide.

Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty

"SB6 is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law," Hutchinson said in a statement, NPR reported. "I would have preferred the legislation to include the exceptions for rape and incest, which has been my consistent view, and such exceptions would increase the chances for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Reproductive rights activists denounced the bill yesterday, emphasizing the already extremely limited access to abortion in Arkansas.

"Arkansas politicians have a crisis on their hands, and it's not limiting patients' access to constitutionally protected care," Dr. Brandon Hill, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said, the Cut reported. "Instead of working to improve the state's underfunded public health system during a global pandemic, politicians are passing bills designed to gain publicity rather than address Arkansans' needs."

If the bill is not challenged in court, the abortion ban will go into effect on Aug. 3. Abortion rights activists said they intend to fight the bill.

"Abortion is legal in all 50 states, including Arkansas, and we'll fight as long as it takes to keep it that way," Holly Dickson, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement. "Governor Hutchinson: we'll see you in court."

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