Arkansas Legislature Votes To Pass Abortion Ban, Awaits Action From Governor
The Arkansas Legislature on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state.
By a vote of 76-19, the Arkansas House passed Senate Bill 6, which bans the legal practice of abortion with few medical exceptions and no exceptions for rape or incest. Anyone found guilty of performing or attempting to perform an abortion could face a fine of up to $100,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both a fine and prison sentence.
As the bill made its way through the legislature, several lawmakers expressed concern over the lack of exemptions for instances of rape or incest. An amendment to add those exceptions, drafted by Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, was not approved.
The bill now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson who has not said if he will sign it into law.
In presenting the bill to the House, Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, cited the legislatures’ previous actions on abortion-related bills.
"We have passed legislation every year since I’ve been here that have limited abortion with laws like the heartbeat bill. It is the will of the people of Arkansas to save the lives of unborn children and to help women in this state and that’s exactly what SB6 does," Bentley said.
Rep. Ashley Hudson, D-Little Rock, was one of five lawmakers to speak against the bill. She said it was “folly” for the legislature to believe that the U.S. Supreme Court would view the bill as constitutional.
"If you go back and read through the writings and decisions and public speeches made by Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett and Gorsuch, you will find that all of them have made exceptions in their own belief systems in certain cases in which they found that abortion was not objectionable," Hudson said.
Rep. Monte Hodges, D-Blytheville, called the bill extremely restrictive.
"This is a harmful piece of legislation that criminalizes doctors and would prevent Arkansans from accessing a safe procedure that one-in-four American women in their lifetime would need," Hodges said.
Rep. Joe Cloud, R-Russellville, agreed with Hodges on its restrictiveness, but spoke in favor of the bill.
"This is a very restrictive bill. I totally agree with that, but the intent is to stop the taking of a life," Cloud said.
The House cut off debate due to a majority of members approving a motion to immediately consider the bill.
Hutchinson told reporters Wednesday he will announce next week whether he will sign the bill. On Tuesday, the governor said though he has historically signed every anti-abortion bill that has come to his desk, the lack of exceptions for instances of rape and incest has "caused some pause."
The ACLU of Arkansas issued a statement after Wednesday vote saying "this abortion ban is plainly unconstitutional and we stand ready to challenge it and any effort to block Arkansans from care or dictate their personal medical decisions."