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Arkansas governor says state's abortion ban will 'save lives'

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks about Friday's Supreme Court ruling eliminating the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S. on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday.

In the wake of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Arkansas’ Republican governor says the state will expand adoption and other services geared toward people with unwanted pregnancies.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, saying the Supreme Court ruling is something that will “save lives” in the state. Hutchinson said he thinks the high court’s ruling is not an unwarranted intrusion by government on personal health decisions.

“Obviously, when you’re looking at the government… forcing someone to carry a child to term, you’ve got to think that through, and legislators are thinking that through,” Hutchinson said. “Whenever you’re looking at the opportunity to save the unborn child, that is the rare circumstance in this case that you use the power of the state to say, unless the health of the mother is at risk, let’s carry that child to term.”

Hutchinson said he’s calling on state lawmakers and the Department of Health to form a plan to provide more support to adoption agencies and pregnancy resource centers, which are typically faith-based organizations that seek to dissuade people with unwanted pregnancies from obtaining an abortion.

Arkansas is one of 13 states with a “trigger law” that outlawed abortion following Friday’s Supreme Court ruling. When asked whether he supports Arkansas’ abortion ban having no exceptions for rape or incest, Hutchinson said that’s not currently up for discussion.

“I would’ve preferred a different outcome than that, but that’s not the debate today in Arkansas. It might be in the future, but for now the law triggered with only one exception,” Hutchinson said. “While you can debate whether there ought to be additional exceptions, every state’s going to make a different determination on that under our Constitution.”

Arkansas’ trigger law which went into effect following Friday’s ruling bans all abortions in the state, except in cases where it’s needed to save the life of the mother. When asked whether he anticipates doctors in Arkansas facing harassment or legal action for terminating pregnancies in those cases, Hutchinson said “they certainly should not.”

Hutchinson said he does not anticipate contraceptives, such as IUDs and Plan B, will be banned in Arkansas following the Supreme Court ruling. He said he does not expect any action stemming from Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinion that other landmark Supreme Court rulings should now be re-examined.

“There was no one that joined in that opinion, so this is not about contraception, this is not about same-sex marriage, [it’s] a very limited decision on this particular issue of abortion. And so in Arkansas, the right to contraception is important, it’s recognized, it’s not going to be touched,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson, who is considering a run for president, said he would not support a nationwide ban on abortion, instead saying it should be up to individual state legislatures to ban the procedure.

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also spoke on Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” and responded to Hutchinson’s comments.

“Gov. Hutchinson governs over a state that has the third-highest maternal mortality in the United States. 71% of the women who die are Black women as well. This is a state that has 26% child poverty… and forcing women to carry pregnancies against their will will kill them,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

“It will kill them, especially in the State of Arkansas, where there is very little to no support for life after birth in terms of healthcare, in terms of childcare and in terms of combating poverty.”

A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found 56% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.