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Arkansas bill to ban almost all abortions, explained

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | February 16, 2021 at 11:22 a.m.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, speaks Wednesday Feb. 10, 2021 at the state Capitol during a press conference about his bill, SB6, that would ban all abortions except those to save the life of a mother. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

This story is a part of The Article, your guide to Arkansas news and culture, presented by the Democrat-Gazette. Sign up for The Article's twice-weekly newsletter here or to see stories that have appeared in past newsletters, go here .

A Senate committee passed a bill last week that would ban almost all abortions in Arkansas, ultimately with the goal of forcing the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Roe v. Wade, which upheld the right to an abortion.

Here’s what to know as the bill heads before the Senate as a whole. (Go here to read about how a bill becomes a law in Arkansas).

What exactly does the bill say?

The bill would ban all abortions except to preserve the life of the pregnant person.

Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, has introduced an amendment to also make an exception for pregnancies as a result of rape or incest, but the amendment has not yet been voted on.

The bill would punish any doctor who performs an abortion with criminal penalties of a fine up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

The bill also explicitly states a desire for the United States Supreme Court to overturn its ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Arkansas already has a "trigger law,” that makes most abortions illegal if the Supreme Court ever overturns Roe vs Wade.

Who sponsored the bill?

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, is the lead sponsor. Rapert is running for lieutenant governor in 2022.

Co-sponsors of the bill include more than 40 other legislators. Go here to see their names.

Who supports the bill?

Members of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, all Republicans, voted unanimously in favor of the bill, sending it before the entire chamber for a vote. Go here to see who sits on that committee.

Several organizations, including Arkansas Right to Life, the Arkansas Family Council and the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, have voiced support for the bill.

Who doesn’t support the bill?

The bill already has drawn the threat of a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which called the proposed ban unconstitutional.

An attorney for the National Right to Life Committee expressed concerns that a failure to get the Supreme Court to reverse its Roe v. Wade precedent could set the anti-abortion movement back. A spokeswoman for the national committee said the group does not have a stance on SB6, and that the letter represents the personal views of its attorney, James Bopp.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said through a spokeswoman last week he had "a number of concerns" with SB6, but the governor did not commit to signing or vetoing the bill.

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