May 4, 2022 - News

Arkansas prepared to ban abortion pending SCOTUS decision

What would immediately happen in each state if Roe v. Wade is overturned
Data: Axios Research; Cartogram: Sara Wise and Oriana Gonzalez/Axios

A so-called "trigger law" enacted in Arkansas in 2019 would effectively make abortion illegal in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Driving the news: Politico published a leaked draft opinion showing that SCOTUS is poised to overturn the landmark decision.

Of note: The draft isn't the court's final opinion, which is expected in late June or early July.

Why it matters: Women make up more than half of the state's population.

  • A woman living in Arkansas with an unwanted pregnancy would potentially have to travel hundreds of miles to reach an abortion clinic if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
  • That creates a disproportionate disadvantage for poor women and women of color.

Details: The Arkansas measure prohibits abortion except to save the life of the mother. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.

  • The law does not punish a woman for receiving an abortion, but anyone performing one could be fined up to $100,000, imprisoned for up to 10 years, or both.

State of play: Currently, people seeking an abortion in Arkansas must receive state-directed counseling and wait 72 hours before the procedure.

  • It may only be performed from 3-21 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Or in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or compromised physical health — 22 weeks after a patient’s last period.

There are two locations in the state that provide abortion services: Planned Parenthood in Little Rock can prescribe pills that will start the process. Little Rock Family Planning Services provides both surgical procedures and pills.

  • The use of telemedicine to obtain pills for an abortion is prohibited in Arkansas and a minor must have parental consent for any kind.

What they're saying: "We’re going to legislate the forced pregnancies of children in Arkansas," Rep. Ashley Hudson (D-Little Rock) told Axios, referring to the lack of exceptions for rape or incest, even for children.

  • "The opinion opens the door to the erosion of other 14th Amendment protections like marriage equality and the right to obtain birth control without consent of your spouse and the right to privacy in general," Hudson said.
  • "It's a slippery slope," Rep. Monte Hodges (D-Blytheville) told Axios. "You know women have a right just like men have a right to decide what they want to do with their own bodies."
  • Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), supported the 2019 law. "We have a lot of options now as women and control over what type of birth control to use," she told Axios. "Abortion is not a form of birth control — abortion is the taking of a human life for convenience sake or … if it's for health's sake, that's a totally different issue."
  • Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) who drafted the 2019 bill, did not respond to Axios' requests for comment.

What we're watching: It's not yet clear what legal challenges could come at the state level if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

  • But ACLU Executive Director Holly Dickson released a statement Tuesday that reads in part, "Abortion is legal in Arkansas — just as it is in all 50 states — and we will continue to fight to keep it that way.”
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