Like most Americans, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson believes that states should be allowed to protect unborn babies from abortions.
But because of Roe v. Wade, they can’t.
So earlier this month, Hutchinson took action to change that when he signed the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions in his state.
On Sunday, the Republican governor defended his action in an interview with CNN.
“That was the whole design of the law. It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s State of the Union. “… And so I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade – that was the intent of it. I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case but we’ll see.”
Hutchinson said he would have preferred if the law had included exceptions for victims of rape and incest, but he signed it anyway to be a direct challenge to Supreme Court abortion rulings.
The Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act (Senate Bill 6) passed the state legislature by a strong majority earlier this year. If enacted, the bill would ban all abortions in the state. The only exceptions would be if the mother’s life or health are at risk. Abortionists who violate the ban would face up to 10 years in prison. Women would not be punished.
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The legislation is supposed to go into effect this summer, but the American Civil Liberties Union already has announced plans to challenge it in court.
“We’re ready to take Arkansas to court — again,” the ACLU responded when the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act passed.
Since 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court has forced states to legalize abortion on demand under Roe v. Wade. States that want to protect unborn babies may only do so once they reach the point of viability, currently about 21 weeks. Roe made the United States one of only seven countries in the world that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks.
Arkansas and more than a dozen other states are challenging that precedent through total abortion bans, laws that prohibit abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable (about six weeks), laws banning discriminatory abortions on unborn babies with disabilities, and laws banning abortions after the first trimester.
These laws and a growing list of other pro-life state legislation indicate that most Americans want more protections for unborn babies.
Polls do, too. Gallup has been asking about the legality of abortions by trimester for decades. Its polls have found steady, strong opposition to abortions in the second and third trimesters. Additionally, a 2019 Hill-HarrisX poll found that 55 percent of voters said they do not think laws banning abortions after six weeks – when an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable – are too restrictive.
Though the high court currently has a conservative majority, Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by a Republican president, has sided with the liberal justices on a number of occasions. Most of the justices have seemed reluctant to consider controversial abortion cases.