As we’d mentioned earlier, Sen. Jason Rapert has a “trigger” bill to make abortion illegal in virtually all circumstances in Arkansas should the U.S. Supreme Court reverse Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to abortion pre-viability. The bill, filed Tuesday, is worse than you have already imagined.

There is, of course, no rape or incest exception. The sole exception is a “medical emergency,” defined this way:


“Medical emergency” means a condition that, in reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of the pregnant woman that it necessitates the immediate abortion of her pregnancy.

“Reasonable medical judgment.” We’ll leave that gaping ambiguity for another day. Today let’s consider what’s not mentioned at all: The likelihood of survival of the fetus, a factor that might not complicate the “medical condition of the pregnant woman.”

I point as I have before, to the tragic situation that confronted  a young couple who learned of the fatal condition of a 19-week-old fetus. The father wrote about dealing with a 20-week abortion cutoff then proposed by Rapert and later adopted by the legislature, despite court findings elsewhere that it is unconstitutional. The father’s dilemma would be magnified by Rapert’s new legislation if implemented.


Our first ultrasound happened at nineteen weeks, as is the case within most pregnancies. It is usually the first opportunity for doctors to diagnose serious problems. By the time we were seen by a specialist, we were past twenty weeks. Recently a coworker came to my wife in tears, sharing her story for the first time. Her own ultrasound had revealed her baby’s fatal kidney failure and she faced the same gut-wrenching decision.

The Arkansas legislation establishes criminality at the very moment when parents and their doctors have to face painful reality. The bill is a product of ignorance and insensitivity to the suffering of parents and their unborn children. This legislation demands that grieving mothers carry their baby as long as possible, without exception. It declares that politicians know better than medical experts in every situation, even ours. This is not an argument about unwanted children. It is about the right of parents and their doctors to make educated and moral decisions with all the facts, not with a calendar.

In that case, a doctor injected the fatally damaged fetus to stop its heart and the woman had a stillbirth two weeks later. This would not be possible under Rapert’s legislation.

Rapert would provide unlimited protection for the fetus from the moment an egg is fertilized by sperm. It would require a woman to carry a pregnancy, no matter how ill-fated, to term if there was no medical consequence for her. It would have prevented the treatment described in the article I’ve linked. It is not a law about protecting women.


I acknowledge the section in Rapert’s proposal that says the law is not intended to prohibit use of abortion drugs if “administered before the time when a pregnancy could be determined through conventional medical testing.” Rapert and the legislature have other laws to put out of business the few doctors who will prescribe abortion-inducing drugs. Plus, though most are administered within the first nine weeks, many women don’t check for pregnancy until the time, around five weeks, when pregnancy CAN be determined.  So forget that exception. It’s largely meaningless.

And though I know this will rouse my allies in the pro-choice community, I have to mention Plan B, the morning after pill that is meant to stop the release of eggs from the ovary or to prevent the union of sperm and egg. The FDA also says: “If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation).” It is also true that medical experts dispute this possibility.

I’m no scientist and I’m willing to accept those who say the morning after pill doesn’t prevent implantation. But I also know Jason Rapert. Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile of women’s medical rights. Just because one of his laws says something doesn’t make it so. Nor does what he say in his Facebook rants mean anything against the plain text of the law.

Fertilization means the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum;

Once that occurs, anybody who tries to stop the process is in peril.