The state Senate passed a bill Thursday 29-6 that would ban abortions in Arkansas if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its Roe v. Wade precedent or if the U.S. Constitution is ever amended to allow states to prohibit the procedure.
Legislators drew emotional gasps and tears as they debated Senate Bill 149, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, as well as 47 House and Senate co-sponsors.
"It's time for the United States to redress and correct what many believe is a grave injustice and a crime against humanity which is being perpetuated by the decisions of Roe v. Wade," Rapert said.
SB149 now heads to the House for consideration.
Twenty-six Republicans and three Democrats voted for the measure. Those voting against it were Democratic Sens. Will Bond of Little Rock, Joyce Elliott of Little Rock, Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock, Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff, Keith Ingram of West Memphis and Greg Leding of Fayetteville.
A medical emergency that endangers the life of the mother was the only exception to the proposed abortion ban, while pregnancies resulting from rape and incest were omitted.
Also, SB149 would permit the use of contraceptive measures -- like "morning-after pills" such as Ella or Plan B -- if administered before the time when a pregnancy could be medically confirmed. The pills are effective only up to five days after sexual intercourse.
Elliott asked Rapert if the bill gave women the choice of an abortion if the morning-after pill failed and they were faced with an unwanted pregnancy.
Rapert said that only 1 percent to 2 percent of abortions have "anything to do with rape or incest."
"Most of the time, I can't say all the time, we know there are some situations that would absolutely horrify each of us. Those are things I never want anybody to face," Rapert said. "But what the approach typically is most of the time there's a rape, it's reported."
Elliott again presented the scenario of a rape victim and the failure of the emergency contraceptive.
"I still wouldn't have a choice?" Elliott said.
"The bill is very clear," Rapert said. "It says up until the time the pregnancy could be medically detected. The bill does not apply to people in that situation whatsoever."
Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, shared her personal story of "another choice" she made when faced with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy after college.
"I was terrified when I found out I was pregnant and I wasn't married. I come from a Catholic family, a big Catholic family. I knew what the consequences of my actions would be, but I still made that choice," Irvin said. "I didn't know how I was going to tell my mom and my dad, I didn't know how I was going to tell my family. I didn't know how I was going to tell the man that I was dating. I was so scared."
Irvin and her husband of 26 years, Dr. John Irvin, were married within days of the decision to keep the baby, and they now have four children.
"I have the most amazing beautiful daughter because of that choice," she said.
Chesterfield asked Rapert if there would be an "accompanying bill eliminating the death penalty."
"Since you're asking folks to value life before birth, should we not be valuing it after?" Chesterfield said.
Rapert countered by quoting Jeremiah 1:5, which states: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you."
"The Bible says that God hates those who shed innocent blood," Rapert said. "And I was hoping that the same place in somebody's heart that would want to save a murderer who killed an innocent person would be the same place in their heart that they would want to save a little innocent human being. That's my answer."
Bond took issue with a portion of the bill that makes doctors who perform abortions guilty of a felony and facing a fine of up to $100,000 and imprisonment for up to 10 years. Women who receive abortions would not be criminally charged.
"We are defining for women and doctors what a medical emergency is in this bill," Bond said.
Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville, testified how the inability of him and his wife, Karen, to have biological children led to the adoption of two children.
"We've enjoyed all the joys of parenthood, all the trials of parenthood. They have been a joy to our lives," Wallace said. "They have grown into college grads, professionals. Our son is a nurse, an R.N. nurse. He has saved lives. I will always be grateful to the birth mother that made a decision to have our children."
Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, referred to the Bible and asked, "Who are we fooling to think our bodies belong to us in the first place?
"My body does not belong to me any more than a woman's body belongs to her," Hammer said.
Rapert closed the discussion by referring to the late Norma McCorvey, the woman who was known as "Jane Roe" in Roe v. Wade. McCorvey, who sued to obtain an abortion, later became an anti-abortion activist.
McCorvey gave birth and placed for adoption the baby in question before the case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973.
"Some people don't know that Norma McCorvey never had an abortion. Ever," Rapert said. "And here we are using her name and her story to continue a culture of death."
Metro on 02/08/2019