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Roe reversal would trigger Arkansas’ anti-abortion law

2021-02-rapert.jpg
Brian Chilson
/
Arkansas Times
Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert speaking to reporters in February 2021 as a near-total abortion ban was advancing through the legislature.

Arkansas Republican political leaders praised a likely U.S. Supreme Court decision ending abortion rights while decrying the leak of the court’s draft opinion. The state’s Democratic Party chair said taking away a constitutional right will not long succeed.

Politico reported late Monday the contents of a leaked 98-page draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito distributed to the other justices on Feb. 10. Alito wrote that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” a direct rebuttal of the legal precedent set by the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which granted abortion rights.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” Alito wrote.

The Supreme Court issued a 7–2 decision in January 1973, ruling that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment provides a right to privacy that protects a woman’s right to have an abortion. The decision struck down a Texas ban on abortion.

After confirming the leaked draft is legitimate, President Joe Biden called it a “radical decision.”

“I hope there are not enough votes for it,” Biden said Tuesday morning. “It concerns me a great deal that after 50 years, a woman does not have a right to choose.”

He also said Alito’s language in the draft reflects a “fundamental shift” in legal history, saying it goes far beyond the right to choose an abortion and all decisions related to privacy are “now thrown into question.”

ARKANSAS GOP REACTION

Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a similar statement.

“I have advocated for the reversal of Roe v. Wade all my political career. The leak from someone within the court is reprehensible and should lead to an investigation but I do hope the court returns authority to the states,” Hutchinson said.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said on Twitter: “The breach of the Supreme Court’s confidentiality and decorum is troubling and serves to undermine its role in our system. When the Court formally issues its decision in the Dobbs case, I pray it gives Arkansas and every other state the power to protect innocent, unborn children.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., suggested the Department of Justice should investigate the leak.

“The Supreme Court & the DOJ must get to the bottom of this leak immediately using every investigative tool necessary. In the meantime, Roe was egregiously wrong from the beginning & I pray the Court follows the Constitution & allows the states to once again protect unborn life,” he said in a Twitter statement.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday that court officials would investigate how the draft was leaked. The court also issued a statement noting that the reported 5-4 vote with the draft opinion “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

ARKANSAS IMPACT

The Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) issued a statement Tuesday morning noting that if the court overturned abortion rights, it would trigger an Arkansas law that bans abortions and access to emergency contraception pills, even in rape and incest cases. The trigger law also includes prison sentences for those who provide services in violation of the law. According to the DPA statement, Arkansas is one of 13 states with similar trigger laws.

“The leaked United States Supreme Court opinion, if true, constitutes a shocking descent into precedent-defying judicial activism. If this draft becomes official in June, a newly passed Arkansas law will immediately outlaw access to abortions for Arkansas women and children who are victims of rape or incest,” said Arkansas Rep. Ashley Hudson, D-Little Rock.

Grant Tennille, chair of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, said the party would do all it could to push back against a reversal of Roe and the 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision by the court, which also upheld abortion rights.

“Arkansas Democrats will continue to fight for the protections afforded by Roe and Casey because we trust women to make their own health-care decisions about abortion and their bodies,” Tennille said in a statement sent to Talk Business & Politics. “No effort to strip constitutional rights and individual autonomy from citizens of this country has ever succeeded for long, and this effort will be consigned to that same dustbin. Democrats know what freedom and individual responsibility really look like, and we will not rest until those fundamental rights are guaranteed for all.”