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Politics & Policy

Arkansas Enacts an Abortion Ban Aimed at Overturning Roe

Yesterday, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill that bans nearly all abortions in the state, a move that the legislature hopes will eventually lead to the Supreme Court overturning its ruling in Roe v. Wade and subsequent abortion decisions.

The Arkansas bill, known as the “Unborn Child Protection Act,” would prohibit all abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.” In the context of the legislation, a medical emergency is defined as a situation in which a pregnant woman’s “life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”

While bills such as this one often face scrutiny for failing to allow abortion when the pregnant mother was the victim of rape or incest, some pro-lifers say that such exceptions undermine the coherence of the pro-life case. If abortion is wrong and should be illegal because it takes a human life, it remains wrong when that human life came into being through an act of violence.

Meanwhile, the bill’s sponsors hope that, even though their legislation is sure to be blocked in court, it might make its way to the Supreme Court and serve as a vehicle for overturning Roe.

“The State of Arkansas urgently pleads with the United States Supreme Court to do the right thing, as they did in one of their greatest cases, Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned a fifty-eight year-old precedent of the United States, and reverse, cancel, overturn, and annul Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey,” the bill text reads.

The bill also states that it is designed “to ensure that abortion in Arkansas is abolished and [to] protect the lives of unborn children.”

The law is intended not only as a possible means of undoing Roe but also as a “trigger law” for the state of Arkansas. If the Court were to roll back parts of its abortion jurisprudence, even aside from considering the Arkansas ban, it might allow states to regulate abortion more than is currently permitted. In such circumstances, this bill would ensure that most abortions immediately become illegal in Arkansas.

According to a report from the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, state legislators have introduced more than 300 bills to protect the unborn since the start of the new legislative term this year.

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