Dec 2, 2021 - News

What SCOTUS' docket means for Arkansas

Data: Myers Abortion Facility Database on OSF; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

A law enacted in 2019 would make abortions illegal in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Driving the news: The nation's high court heard oral arguments yesterday in a case involving a Mississippi law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Mississippi's attorney general has asked justices to overturn the 1973 ruling, which set a precedent for the constitutional right to abortion, and subsequent decisions.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe, but it wasn't immediately clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely, Axios' Oriana Gonzales reports.

The big picture: Without Roe, abortion laws and access would vary by state.

  • The procedure would immediately become illegal in 12 states, including Arkansas and Oklahoma.
  • Residents living in Little Rock would have to travel more than 350 miles to receive an abortion, as the map above shows. Northwest Arkansans would have to travel more than 200 miles to Overland Park, Kansas.

Flashback: In addition to the 2019 trigger law — a nickname for a law that is unenforceable — Arkansas lawmakers enacted one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country earlier this year. The Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act would allow abortions only in cases where it's necessary to save the life or preserve the health of the fetus or mother.

  • Performing an abortion would be considered a felony that could result in a prison sentence and fines up to $100,000.
  • A Federal Judge blocked the ban in July while she hears legal challenges.

What they're saying: Rose Mimms of Arkansas Right to Life said her organization will be watching what the Supreme Court decides on the Mississippi law, but also the Texas law.

  • "We're looking even more closely to the Texas hearing," she said, "to see how that's going to impact abortion in Arkansas."
  • The ability for anyone to sue someone seeking or providing an abortion "could save a lot of babies in Arkansas," Mimms told Axios.

Yes, but: In a statement to Axios, Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains said that if laws like the one in Mississippi are allowed to take effect, people will lose the ability to make their own medical decisions throughout much of the country.

  • “Politicians have no place telling people what to do with their bodies or their lives. Patients turn to health care providers like Planned Parenthood for guidance and support in making medical decisions, including abortion.”

What to watch: A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court isn't expected until the summer of next year.

Of note: Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that abortion laws would not be part of the agenda for the special legislative session that will convene next week.

Go Deeper: Interactive map: What post-Roe America could look like


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