The Arkansas legislature sent Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) a bill on Thursday that would outlaw most abortions if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that legalized the medical procedure nationwide. The House passed the bill by a vote of 72 to 20.
Should Hutchinson sign the bill into law, Arkansas would join four other states (Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, and South Dakota) that have abortion “trigger laws.” The laws, all passed after Roe was decided, would almost immediately ban most abortions in those states if the landmark Supreme Court decision is overturned.
While Hutchinson hasn’t commented on this proposal, he has signed other restrictive abortions bills into law. For example, he signed a bill that bans a very common abortion procedure during the second trimester.
“We are establishing the will of the people if we are fortunate enough to have the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Rep. Mary Bentley (R), who introduced the bill for a vote in the House on Thursday.
Support for Roe is actually at an all time high nationwide. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll, conducted shortly before Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement last June, shows two-thirds of the public said they do not want to see Roe overturned.
There is a real possibility that Roe could be overturned, given how conservative the Supreme Court is with President Donald Trump’s two appointments. However, some legal experts think it’s more likely the court will chip away at abortion rights in other ways, upholding laws like Louisiana’s admitting privileges requirement, which has shuttered clinics already and effectively eliminates abortion access in the state.
The Arkansas bill before the governor only makes exceptions for life endangerment. When asked by her colleague about why it doesn’t include rape/incest exceptions, Bentley said survivors can always use the morning-after pill. When asked about the lack of exceptions for lethal fetal anomalies, she said “sometimes those babies will make it.”
“I can tell you, it’s much easier for the mother to grieve if she knows she’s done everything she’s can,” she added.
Bentley’s makes a lot of assumptions. Researchers who interview people who have abortions later in pregnancy because of the health of the fetus can tell you the decision is anything but simple.
The bill also makes providing an abortion a felony, though the person seeking an abortion would not be charged.
It’s also already very difficult to access abortion care in Arkansas. Public insurance doesn’t cover abortions, except in cases of rape/incest or life endangerment. There are also only three abortion clinics in the state, and Arkansas bans telemedicine for medication abortion.
Before voting for the “trigger law” bill on Thursday, Rep. Cindy Crawford (R) said that people who need abortions can simply go to other states to have abortions, adding “let’s make Arkansas number one [for] pro-life.”
The thing is, people are already traveling to nearby states. Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Louisiana, for example, sees patients who travel from Arkansas. Louisiana is also a state that would outlaw most abortions if Roe is overturned, leaving these patients in an impossible place.