The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion. Friday’s ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states. In anticipation of the decision, several states led by Democrats have taken steps to protect abortion access. The decision also sets up the potential for legal fights between the states over whether providers and those who help women obtain abortions can be sued or prosecuted.
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.
Arkansas already had a law banning 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 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.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: Arkansas has a law it enacted in 2019 that bans nearly all abortions now that Roe is overturned. That ban, along with the outright ban that’s been blocked by a federal judge, 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.
Hours after Friday’s ruling, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge signed certification that Roe had been overturned. That certification allows the state’s “trigger ban” to take effect immediately. 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 said Friday he does not plan on asking lawmakers to consider adding rape and incest exceptions to the state’s ban.