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‘It Is a Direct Challenge to Roe v. Wade’: Arkansas Lawmakers Send Bill Banning All Elective Abortions to Governor’s Desk

The state of Arkansas is one signature away from enacting the strictest anti-abortion law in the United States. Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to approve Senate Bill 6 (SB6), a measure that would ban all abortions except in cases of a medical emergency where the procedure is required to save the life of the mother.

The bill, which has already been approved by the Senate, passed the House by a vote of 76-19. It does not allow for any exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Under current U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the anti-abortion law is patently unconstitutional, violating the holdings of both Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood. It would immediately face vehement legal challenges—something Arkansas lawmakers are counting on in hopes that the high court’s new conservative majority will upend decades-old reproductive rights decisions.

“Arkansas is asking and pleading that the U.S. Supreme Court take a look at this and make a decision that once again allows the states to protect human life,” the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, said prior before the measure passed the state Senate late last month.

That sentiment was reiterated Wednesday by another co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mary Bentley.

“It’s time for this decision to be overturned in the Supreme Court,” Bentley told her colleagues in reference to Roe.

“We have passed legislation every year since I’ve been here that have limited abortion with laws like the heartbeat bill. It is the will of the people of Arkansas to save the lives of unborn children and to help women in this state and that’s exactly what SB6 does.”

The legislation is now in the hands of Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has not indicated whether he will sign it into law, expressing some reservations regarding the lack of exceptions for incest and rape.

“I’ve always historically signed every pro-life bill that’s come to my desk, this one has caused some pause because it is a direct challenge to Roe v .Wade,” he said Tuesday. “It does not include rape and incest as exceptions, but I want to look that over. Look at the prospects of it and then make a decision, but that will be down the road as well.”

Following Wednesday’s vote, Hutchinson did not take a concrete position on the legislation, saying he would come out with a statement by next week.

The ACLU of Arkansas called the measure “harmful” and “unconstitutional.”

“We’re disheartened to see a majority of legislators, who took an oath to uphold the Constitution, act so brazenly to undermine its fundamental guarantees,” the organization said in a statement on Wednesday. “At a time when so many Arkansans are facing financial hardship and personal loss from a global pandemic, it is especially reprehensible that so many lawmakers remain hellbent on a harmful crusade to intrude on people’s personal autonomy and force them to continue pregnancies against their will. This abortion ban is plainly unconstitutional and we stand ready to challenge it and any effort to block Arkansans from care or dictate their personal medical decisions. We will be seeing the state of Arkansas in court again.”

Read SB6 below:

SB6 by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.