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Arkansas Lawmakers To Vote On Near-Total Abortion Ban

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen

A new bill would make nearly all forms of abortion a crime in Arkansas, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, and Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, allows abortion to be performed legally only when the mother’s life is threatened or to remove an ectopic pregnancy.

Jerry Cox is the president of the Family Council, a faith-based advocacy organization in Little Rock. He says the goal of the bill is not out-of-step with the sentiments of most Arkansans.

“This law does what most people in Arkansas have been saying should be done. The polling that's been donein the last several years indicates the majority of people in Arkansas, if you ask them, they tell you, ‘We believe abortion should be illegal,’” Cox said.

The bill is the latest in a series of efforts to restrict access to the procedure in Arkansas, including limiting the reasons women can obtain an abortion, the types of procedures that can be performed, as well as the gestational age after which the procedure cannot be completed.

Though Arkansas already has a so-called “trigger law” on the books, which would automatically make abortion illegal if the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision is overturned, Cox said this new bill seeks to expedite that process.

“We know for a fact that the U.S. Supreme Court can’t reverse or dial back Roe v. Wade unless somebody sends them a case that gives them the opportunity to look at that. And we think this could do that,” Cox said. “I believe it's the right time to do it. I believe the courts are leaning in a pro-life direction right now, probably more than they've done in the last 50 years.”

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas declined to comment for this story through a spokesperson. In a statement, ACLU of Arkansas executive director Holly Dickson called the bill “cruel and blatantly unconstitutional.”

“Let’s be clear: if passed, this brazenly unconstitutional abortion ban will be struck down in court, and legislators who passed it will have achieved nothing but having wasted taxpayer dollars on an unlawful measure and diverted scarce resources from the urgent needs our communities face in the midst of an ongoing and devastating pandemic,” the statement reads.

Lawmakers will take up the bill in the general legislative session beginning Jan. 11.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.
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