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Arkansas senator optimistic Supreme Court will overturn landmark abortion ruling

State Sen. Jason Rapert said in an interview Wednesday after listening to the Supreme Court's oral arguments he's confident justices will overturn a landmark abortion ruling.
State Sen. Jason Rapert said after listening to the Supreme Court's oral arguments, he's confident justices will overturn a landmark abortion ruling.

This story has been updated to include a response by Sen. Joyce Elliott.

With speculation the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority might overturn the nationwide right to abortion, an Arkansas lawmaker is reiterating his intention to introduce a Texas-style abortion bill during a special session that begins Tuesday. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said the legislature should wait for a ruling from the high court before introducing further abortion-related bills.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, made his comments in an interview Wednesday after the court heard oral arguments regarding a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks. Rapert said he was not surprised by what he heard in the hearing.

“I believe that the best decision that they could make is to allow states to exercise the same authority we had been exercising prior to the Roe v. Wade decision,” Rapert said.

Hear KUAR's interview with Sen. Jason Rapert on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

He believes that would lead to some states like New York offering abortions until the point of birth, though no states have proposed allowing abortions that late in a pregnancy, while conservative states like Arkansas would have bans in place. This view aligns with Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who suggested the court should leave the issue of abortion to Congress and the states and “return to the position of neutrality.”

While announcing plans for a special session on Tuesday, Hutchinson, a Republican, said Arkansas already has “one of the most restrictive” abortion laws in the country. He wants the session to primarily be focused on his tax cut package.

“Any additional action should await guidance from the Supreme Court,” Hutchinson told reporters.

But Rapert said waiting would mean abortions would continue to be carried out.

“It’s our role to stand up and push for change in the system when we see inequity or we want to address the situation,” Rapert said. “I say to Governor Asa Hutchinson, ‘You say you're pro-life. Everyone that is pro-life knows when we need to pick up the tool and use it to try and save lives.’”

Since abortion is not on the governor’s call for the session, two-thirds of legislators will need to support the proposal to bring it up for consideration.

“The same people that voted for SB [Senate Bill] 6 will be for this bill,” said Rapert, “because, if they are not, and they vote against taking it up, they basically are telling everybody back home that they really weren’t serious when they wanted to stop abortion.”

In an interview with KUAR News on Monday, the day before the start of the session, Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, responded to Rapert’s planned legislation calling it “offensive and disingenuous in so many ways.”

Hear KUAR's interview with Sen. Joyce Elliott on Monday, Dec. 6.

“Nobody is going around saying ‘I'm pro-abortion, just have abortions.’ That's not the case. This is something that is directly about a woman and her body and her choices, and I don't know anybody it just makes happy,” Elliott said. “It's painted as if you or anybody else could, just without any mental baggage, can just make that decision and go have an abortion, as if you were going to buy the next pair of earrings. And that's what's so insulting to me about it.”

Leaders of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates clinics in Arkansas, said during a press conference last month they will continue to fight such unconstitutional restrictions on abortion in court.

Remington Miller was an intern at KUAR News as part of the George C. Douthit Endowed Scholarship program. She later worked as a reporter and editor for the station.
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.