Arkansas lawmakers send governor ‘triggered’ abortion ban

Published 9:08 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas lawmakers sent Gov. Asa Hutchinson legislation Thursday that would ban abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1973 ruling legalizing the procedure nationwide.

The majority-Republican House on Thursday approved by a 72-20 vote the proposal to ban all abortions, except for medical emergencies, if the nation’s highest court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision. The ban would also take effect if the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit abortion. A spokesman said Hutchinson, a Republican, planned to sign the measure into law next week.

Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have similar “trigger” bans on the books. Abortion opponents have been pushing for the measures in other states, saying they hope that the high court may be open to more sweeping bans after President Donald Trump’s appointed two conservatives.

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“You have the opportunity to articulate the humanity of human beings and voice our will to protect and honor human life by passing this bill,” Republican Rep. Mary Bentley told lawmakers before the vote.

The measure is among several abortion restrictions that have been proposed in the majority-Republican legislature. They include a measure filed this week that would ban abortions 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. Arkansas already bans abortions at 20 weeks. Other measures being considered include a bill banning abortions because of a Down syndrome diagnosis and a proposal to expand the state’s waiting period before having an abortion from 48 hours to 72 hours.

Arkansas has enacted some of the strictest laws in the country since Republicans won control of the state Legislature in 2012, and many have been the subject of court battles.

“Today the Arkansas General Assembly carried out another extreme and unnecessary attack on women and their health,” Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said in a statement. “Deeply personal medical decisions should be made by women in consultation with their families and doctors – not dictated by politicians.”

A Republican who voted against Thursday’s ban said he’s opposed to abortion but said Thursday’s measure went too far, noting it didn’t include exemptions for rape, incest or for severe fetal abnormalities.

“Who are we to sit in judgment of these women making a decision between them and their physician and their God above?” Republican Rep. Dan Douglas, who voted against the bill, said on the House floor. “It is their right to do that and not ours.”