A Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to advance a proposal to ban nearly all abortions in Arkansas.
The legislation, Senate Bill 6, would prohibit any abortion except those performed to protect the health or life of the mother. Its sponsor, state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said the intent of the bill is to create a law that will force the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider it's precedents upholding the right of a woman to receive an abortion.
The bill has already drawn the threat of a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which called the proposed ban unconstitutional. In addition, an attorney for the National Right to Life Committee sent a letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month expressing concerns that a failure to get the Supreme Court to reverse it's Roe vs. Wade precedent could set the anti-abortion movement back.
Still, the success of the bill in the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Wednesday was all but assured by the committee's all-Republican makeup, the majority of who were sponsors of SB6.
Earlier Wednesday, Rapert held a press conference with lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates at which he touted the support for SB6 by several groups, including Arkansas Right to Life, the Arkansas Family Council and the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock.
"There is overwhelming support," Rapert said. "There's more support for SB6 than there was for the [Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act] in 2013," which banned abortions at as early as 12 weeks off pregnancy, and which was later struck down by a federal court.
Anti-abortion advocates' hopes for overturning Roe vs. Wade have been buoyed by President Donald Trump's appointment of three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who are viewed as conservatives.
Hutchinson, a Republican, said through a spokeswoman Tuesday that he had "a number of concerns" with SB6, but did not commit to signing or vetoing the bill.