Arkansas AG Rutledge certifies trigger law allowing enforcement of abortion ban
Just hours after the U.S Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Arkansas officials certified the state’s trigger law.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge certified Act 180, which was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2019 but couldn’t take effect until Roe was overturned. With Rutledge enacting the law, it is now in effect and will ban all abortions except to save the life of the mother.
“I have a long history of fighting for the unborn and it is my greatest honor to officially end abortion in Arkansas. Roe was wrong on the day it was decided, and today, we can protect every innocent life in Arkansas,” Rutledge said.
The sponsor of Act 180, State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said the Supreme Court ruling was a major victory.
“This is a great day for our nation as future generations of Americans will be given a greater chance at realizing their own lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness by being born in the greatest country the world has known,” Rapert said in a statement.
With the certification of Act 180, Hutchinson said enforcement of the law will begin.
“I will be directing the Arkansas Department of Health to enforce the law and conduct the necessary inspections and notifications to ensure that any abortion clinic provider is in compliance with the law and understands the penalties,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson emphasized Act 180 will only target abortions and not access to contraception. He cited Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion saying that only abortions are the subject of the recent ruling.
When asked about the punishment for not complying with Act 180, Hutchinson said providers will face criminal penalties but women seeking abortions won’t.
“That was intentionally not criminalized conduct. There’s only the abortion provider that the legislature looked at and that I signed into law,” he said.
According to Act 180, anyone found to perform or attempt to perform an abortion, except to save the live of a pregnant woman will be guilty of an unclassified felony. The punishment can be a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years. A combination of a fine and imprisonment can be used.
Hutchinson, who is term-limited, said he will continue to support women who have unwanted pregnancies. Hutchinson has voiced support for rape and incest exceptions, but Act 180 doesn’t provide those.
“That’s the will of the legislature to address that. The certification is what it is in terms of the exceptions for the life of the mother,” Hutchinson said. “I do not see any additional action on that.
House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, said she will call on Hutchinson and the legislature to provide exceptions for rape and incest.
“Even more disturbing, this new trigger law goes to the extreme of even outlawing abortions where girls and women have been victimized through rape and incest. Arkansas legislators could choose to act and ensure our state protects our women and families but sadly, extremists too often drive this difficult conversation,” McCullough said in a press release.
In an interview with KUAR News, state Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs and incoming Senate Pro Tem, disagreed with the governor in needing to add those exceptions.
“I 100% will not support an exception for rape and incest. I do not believe the legislature will either,” Hester said.
Hester also said he doesn’t see the need to add restrictions trying to stop Arkansans from going elsewhere to get an abortion.
“I don’t know how we stop someone from going to another state,” he said. “If another state allows that and they want to go there to end the life of an unborn I guess they’d have that right.”
State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, who attended the certification ceremony, said more restrictions don’t need to be pursued. She added that she hasn’t heard of any legislators trying to outlaw getting abortions across state lines.
“This law [Act 180] that was certified today is a victory for all of us who have worked in the pro-life movement for all these years,” Irvin told reporters.
Speaker of the House Matthew Shepard, R-El Dorado, said he hasn’t engaged in any discussions to make changes to the state’s abortion laws.
“We are the most pro-life state in the country. We took action in 2019 and 2021 even before that, and as far as I’m concerned the law is settled at this point,” Shepard said.
Arkansas is one of 13 that had trigger laws in place in the event of the overturning of Roe, according to NPR News.