To no one’s surprise, Governor Hutchinson today signed SB 6, virtually a total ban on abortion in Arkansas.
SB6 is a pro-life bill that prohibits abortion in all cases except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency. It does not include exceptions for rape and incest.
I will sign SB6 because of overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions. SB6 is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law. I would have preferred the legislation to include the exceptions for rape and incest, which has been my consistent view, and such exceptions would increase the chances for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A lawsuit should soon follow, as has happened in states that have already passed similar laws, to enjoin its enforcement.
The law has no emergency clause so it takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the legislature. The ACLU confirms it has a lawsuit in progress. Its statement:
The ACLU of Arkansas today condemned Governor Asa Hutchinson for signing Senate Bill 6, a near total ban on abortion, into law.
Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director made this statement:
“Once again, Arkansas politicians have made it their business to dictate people’s personal medical decisions, violate their personal autonomy, and block them from care. This extreme abortion ban is cruel and unconstitutional and it will have accomplished nothing but cause stress for patients, while ignoring the pressing challenges Arkansans face. Abortion is legal in all 50 states, including Arkansas, and we’ll fight as long as it takes to keep it that way. Governor Hutchinson: we’ll see you in court.”
Lori Williams, Little Rock Family Planning Services clinic director added:
“In Arkansas, we have continued to serve our patients under years of relentless attacks from state politicians. This outright ban is just the latest and most outrageous effort to block our patients from accessing vital reproductive health care. Our physicians, staff and our patients will not be intimidated by these attacks. Our doors remain open – and we will always fight to ensure that they stay that way. Our patients will continue to receive the compassionate care they need.”
Should it ever become law, abortions will continue — by medical subterfuge; by life-threatening back-alley procedures or by legal abortions obtained by women of means who can travel to less cruel jurisdictions where the lives of women are valued more than a fetus.
Planned Parenthood, which provides medicinal abortions in the first weeks of pregnancy among other services at a clinic in Little Rock, issued this statement:
Under SB 6, physicians who provide abortion for any reason except life endangerment — including in cases of rape or incest — would face criminal penalties. If the law takes effect, it will prevent Arkansans from accessing a safe procedure that one in four American women in their lifetime will need.
Statement from Brandon Hill, Ph.D., president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes: “Arkansas politicians have a crisis on their hands, and it’s not limiting patients’ access to constitutionally protected care. Instead of working to improve the state’s underfunded public health system during a global pandemic, politicians are passing bills designed to gain publicity rather than address Arkansans’ needs. Decisions about pregnancy are deeply personal and should be made by individuals in consultation with their trusted medical providers and their families, not politicians. Abortion is a critical component of comprehensive reproductive health care, and everyone deserves to have access to the health care they need, without interference from politicians. This blatant attempt to eliminate a patient’s right to access safe, legal abortion in Arkansas is a dangerous distraction from focusing on solutions to vaccinate more Arkansans and contain COVID-19.”
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“This is politics at its very worst. At a time when people need economic relief and basic safety precautions, dismantling abortion access is cruel, dangerous, and blatantly unjust. The same politicians who are fixated on controlling our reproductive health care have spent the past year pushing back on scientific guidelines that will keep people safe and alive during a pandemic. Their hypocrisy is clear as day. Our patients deserve better. Planned Parenthood will work alongside its partners to fight this attack on our rights and freedoms.”
Statement from Gloria Pedro, regional manager of public policy and organizing for Arkansas and Oklahoma, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes:
“If Arkansas politicians truly cared about the quality of life for people in this state, especially women and children, they would expand access to comprehensive sex education and contraception, and address the dangerously high rates of maternal mortality and infant mortality in the state. Instead, anti-abortion politicians are wasting taxpayer time and money writing a law that’s the equivalent of a demand letter to the Supreme Court. Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring abortion is safe, legal, and accessible in Arkansas, and we will never back down from this fight.”
SB 6 is one of more than 100 abortion bans being proposed by state legislatures across the country. We are seeing a surge in state abortion bans, anti-abortion constitutional amendments, and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions — all since Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Altogether, more than 250 anti-abortion restrictions are pending in states.
This is all part of a nationwide effort to further push abortion access out of reach. South Carolina just passed a similarly extreme and unconstitutional anti-abortion law, banning abortion at six weeks. Six-week bans on abortion have been struck down each time they have been challenged. Courts in states like Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, and South Carolina have blocked those states’ bans, upholding decades of court precedent that prohibits states from restricting access to abortion before viability.
Restrictions on abortion deeply affect women of color, immigrants, people who live in rural areas, and people with low incomes. These laws hurt the people and families who are already among the most vulnerable Arkansas communities.
In addition, the language in this ban is inherently racist, inappropriately linking essential and time-sensitive abortion care to the horrors of legalized slavery. This comparison has been refuted, debunked, and argued against by Black women.