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Arkansas Governor Signs Near-Total Abortion Ban Into Law

Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking to reporters in his office last Wednesday expressed reservations about the near-total abortion ban because it didn't make exceptions for rape or incest.
Michael Hibblen

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law Tuesday that would ban nearly all abortions in the state. Senate Bill 6 makes no exceptions for rape or incest, and only lists a few medical exceptions.

While abortion rights advocates are promising a legal fight, legislative backers have said they hope the case will eventually be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court and that the addition of more conservative justices in recent years will lead to an overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

"I will sign SB6 because of overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions. 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. "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."

The Arkansas House gave final approval to the bill last Wednesday, and meeting with reporters that afternoon, Hutchinson expressed similar sentiments, but would not say then what he would eventually do.

The law says anyone convicted of performing or attempting to perform an abortion could be fined up to $100,000, face up to 10 years in prison, or receive both a fine and prison sentence.

"Governor Hutchinson: we’ll see you in court," promised ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "This extreme abortion ban is cruel and unconstitutional and it will have accomplished nothing but cause stress for patients, while ignoring the pressing challenges Arkansans face. Abortion is legal in all 50 states, including Arkansas, and we’ll fight as long as it takes to keep it that way."

In recent years, the Arkansas General Assembly has steadily passed bills adding more restrictions to abortions or requiring those undergoing the procedure to take part in ultrasounds.

During debate over this bill, several lawmakers expressed reservations about the lack of rape or incest exemptions. An amendment to add those exemptions by Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, was rejected.

Lori Williams, director of Little Rock Family Planning Services, a clinic that provides abortions, said in a statement that she and her staff would not be intimidated.

"This outright ban is just the latest and most outrageous effort to block our patients from accessing vital reproductive health care. Our physicians, staff and our patients will not be intimidated by these attacks. Our doors remain open – and we will always fight to ensure that they stay that way. Our patients will continue to receive the compassionate care they need," Williams said.

Unless a court intervenes, the law will take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns this year's session.

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.
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