Abortion limits put Arkansas atop list

Americans United for Life group applauds efforts to implement new restrictions

Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, and Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, reveal the pro-life rankings of each state during a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

A national advocacy group has named Arkansas the most “pro-life” state in the country for 2021, based on laws that limit abortion and physician-assisted suicide.

The Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for Life releases rankings each year. President and CEO Catherine Glenn Foster said the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court will allow for the success of more restrictions on abortion.

“That means that state lawmakers across America and led by Arkansas will have the chance to pass meaningful community protections for the pre-born and their mothers,” Foster said.

Arkansas bans abortions after 20 weeks. Four new restrictions on abortion in Arkansas could go into effect before Christmas after the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Tuesday that it will not reconsider its decision to lift a U.S. district judge’s ruling blocking them.

Those restrictions are: banning a second-trimester abortion procedure, dilation and evacuation; requiring doctors to notify law enforcement officials when anyone 16 or younger obtains an abortion; requiring doctors to review a woman’s medical records to see if she knows the sex of the fetus; and regulating the disposal of abortion remains, requiring patients to notify their partners or families.

In 2019, Act 930 made physician-assisted suicide a Class B felony in Arkansas.

A bill filed by state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, last month would ban all abortions except those to save the life of the mother or to remove an ectopic pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions for cases of rape and incest.

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council, praised efforts by legislators and state officials to put an end to the procedure in the state.

“When this Legislature meets in January, I’m very confident we’re going to see a number of really good pro-life laws passed, signed by the governor and upheld by our attorney general and upheld by our courts,” Cox said.

The Arkansas Coalition for Reproductive Justice called Rapert’s bill “a heinous piece of legislation” in a written statement Wednesday, pointing to Arkansas’ high maternal mortality rate as well as the costs to taxpayers for lawsuits over the legislation making their way through the courts.

“Our leaders have a responsibility to use their power to improve the livelihood of those they represent, but they prefer to waste time and money on restricting reproductive freedom and forcing pregnancies, stating clearly that they do not trust us to make deeply personal decisions about our bodies and our families,” the reproductive-rights group said.

Arkansas was ranked second on Americans United for Life’s list for 2020, behind Louisiana. In the 2021 rankings, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Mississippi made the top five, while Vermont was ranked 50th.