Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Senate Bill 6 (SB6) on Tuesday that bans abortions unless the life of the mother is endangered.
Supporters of the controversial bill hope it could force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade, though opponents intend to block it before the law takes effect later this year, according to The Associated Press.
“We must abolish abortion in this nation just as we abolished slavery in the 19th century – all lives matter,” said Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, who is the bill’s sponsor.
Hutchinson was at first reluctant to sign the bill because it did not provide exceptions in the case of rape or incest, but explained in a statement why he ultimately decided to support it:
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.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) expressed vociferous opposition to the bill and vowed to fight its implementation. “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,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said in a statement.
“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,” she added. “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.”
“In Arkansas, we have continued to serve our patients under years of relentless attacks from state politicians,” said Lori Williams, who is clinic director of the Little Rock Family Planning Services. “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.”
Alabama’s Republican-majority House and Senate approved the bill by large margins. The Senate passed it 27-7 on Feb. 22, and the House did so 75-18.