Arkansas lawmakers comment on Roe v. Wade decision. What's next for the Mid-South?
Arkansas lawmakers and gubernatorial candidates are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Arkansas' all Republican congressional delegation have shown support for the supreme court's decision. U.S. Senator John Boozman released the following statement:
This is a long-awaited, consequential day for our nation. The Supreme Court’s decision to affirm there is no constitutional right to indiscriminately sacrifice the lives of children in their mothers’ wombs is the culmination of decades of work to correct the tragic, deadly lie that unborn babies are expendable and undeserving of protection. I’m pleased to have helped confirm justices to our nation’s highest court who are committed to interpreting the Constitution in a manner that is consistent and true to its intent and meaning. With this ruling, the American people will finally have the opportunity to enact their will on this issue instead of unelected judges in Washington, D.C. I am proud of Arkansas’s steadfast commitment to defend the sanctity, dignity and value of every human life, including vulnerable children who deserve our compassion and care.U.S. Senator John Boozman
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford represents Arkansas' First Congressional District, which includes all of northern Arkansas. Crawford posted this statement:
As a consistently pro-Life American, I have long called for overturning Roe v. Wade, an egregious case of Justices making laws rather than interpreting the laws written by our democratically-elected Representatives. Overturning Roe would return abortion issues to our democratic process and restore the genius of the framework outlined in our Constitution. It would also save countless babies’ lives.U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford
Crawford also in the statement condemned the apparent leak of the court's draft opinion that signaled their potential decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade; calling to "bring those responsible to justice."
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton in a Tweet called Roe "a tragic mistake" and said the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the ruling was a "great victory for unborn life."
Roe was a tragic mistake, taking from the American people & their elected representatives a deeply moral question. The Supreme Court has finally corrected this mistake & I highly commend the millions of Americans who toiled for years to achieve this great victory for unborn life.— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) June 24, 2022
Arkansas lawmakers also reacted to the Supreme Court's decision. Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas' Republican Governor, tweeted his support for allowing states to decide how to tackle reproductive rights.
For decades I have said Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Today, the Supreme Court overturned the abortion ruling and returned the issue to the states. Arkansas is a pro-life state, and we are able now to protect life.— Gov. Asa Hutchinson (@AsaHutchinson) June 24, 2022
GOP gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders released this statement is support of the Supreme Court's decision:
For decades, this is a day so many of us have prayed for and worked towards. I am thankful for the brave resolve of the six Supreme Court justices who - while receiving death threats and extreme political pressure - did what is right: defending the lives of the most innocent and vulnerable in our society. As Americans, we value the sanctity of life, and it is in our very nature to protect it. As a mom, I know the love that each of my three children have brought to our family, and, as governor, I will fight to keep Arkansas one of the most pro-life states in the nation.Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Sander's Democratic opponent, Dr. Chris Jones, had a different reaction. Jones tweeted a thread condemning the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe vs. Wade, calling it "an all out assault on women's rights."
Libertarian candidate for Governor, Ricky Dale Harrington, Jr., tweeted "as your governor, I will defend your civil rights" about around the same time the Supreme Court handed down their ruling. However, it's unclear if his comments are in response to the court's decision.
As your governor, I will defend your civil rights.— Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. (@RickDHarrington) June 24, 2022
Arkansas is among many states that have a trigger law in effect if Roe were to ever be overturned. The Arkansas legislature in 2019 passed legislation that would ban abortions only to protect the life of the mother in a medical emergency if the attorney general certifies that the Supreme Court overturned Roe.
Arkansas passed its trigger law around the same time Missouri and Tennessee legislatures passed theirs. Here is a rundown from the Associated Press as to where Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee stands on abortions:
Political control: Arkansas' legislature is controlled by Republicans who have supported dozens of abortion bans and restrictions in recent years. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson also has supported bans on abortion with some exceptions. He's term-limited and leaves office in January. Republican nominee Sarah Sanders, press secretary to former President Donald Trump, is widely favored in the November election to succeed him.
Background: Arkansas law currently bans most abortions 20 weeks into a woman's pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. The state has several other bans that have been struck down or blocked by the courts in recent years, including an outright abortion ban enacted last year that doesn't include rape or incest exceptions. That ban has been blocked by a federal judge, and the state has appealed the ruling.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the state would ban abortion under a "trigger law" it enacted in 2019 that conditions a ban on such a ruling. That ban, along with the outright ban that's been blocked by a federal judge in the state, only allows exceptions to protect the life of the mother in a medical emergency. Hutchinson has said he thinks bans should include rape and incest exceptions, but he has not called on the Legislature to add those to either of the bans.
What's next: Arkansas' "trigger" law banning nearly all abortions in the state takes effect if the attorney general certifies that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. The only exception in that ban is to protect the life of the mother in a medical emergency. The Legislature isn't scheduled to meet until January, but Hutchinson is considering calling a special session to take up tax relief proposals. The Republican governor has not said he plans to include any legislation related to abortion on the agenda for that session.
Political control: Both GOP Gov. Mike Parson and the Republican-led Legislature support laws against abortion.
Background: Missouri law allows abortions up until 22 weeks of pregnancy. But the GOP-led Legislature passed an abortion ban in 2019, hoping that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling would later be tossed out. Under the 2019 law, abortions would only be allowed to save the life of the mother and would not be allowed in cases of rape or incest. Performing an illegal abortion would be a felony punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: The 2019 abortion ban would kick in if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The attorney general, the governor or the Legislature would need to issue an official notice if Roe is overturned for the 2019 law to take effect. The GOP-led Legislature is out of session for the year, but Parson and the attorney general have said they'll take quick action if Roe falls.
What's next: If the abortion ban takes effect, many Missouri patients seeking abortions likely will travel to neighboring states, including Illinois and Kansas. A new Illinois logistics center near St. Louis helps women from out of state find travel, lodging and childcare if they need help getting to the area for an abortion, and it connects them with funding sources. The Kansas Supreme Court in 2019 declared that access to abortion is a "fundamental" right under the state constitution, granting stronger protections to abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution does. Even without the ban in Missouri, the number of Missouri patients seeking abortions in Kansas has gone up in recent years, increasing about 8% from 2020 to 2021.
Political control: Tennessee has a Republican governor who is consistently vocal about his opposition to abortion. The GOP holds a supermajority in the state legislature and has steadily chipped away at abortion access.
Background: In 2020, Tennessee passed a law banning most abortions when the fetal heartbeat can be detected at about six weeks, before many women know they're pregnant. The measure has never been enforced because it was promptly blocked by a federal court. Tennessee voters approved an amendment in 2014 declaring that the state's constitution doesn't protect or secure the right to abortion or require the funding of an abortion, and empowering state lawmakers to "enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion." State law also doesn't allow providers to dispense abortion medications through telemedicine consultations. There are six abortion providers in Tennessee.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a so-called trigger law will go into effect that bans all abortions in Tennessee except when necessary to prevent death or "serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." Doctors could be charged with a felony for providing an abortion under this law, which would take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court's decision is announced.
What's next: It's unclear if the trigger law conflicts with the 2020 law banning most abortions at about six weeks. The state's attorney general, a Republican, has not publicly weighed in. Meanwhile, Republicans are expected to continue to have supermajority control after this year's midterm elections. Reproductive rights activists say they will direct patients seeking abortion to clinics in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned, or to Florida, which would ban abortions at 15 weeks. North Carolina and Virginia could also be options for women in eastern Tennessee.