Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says that his state’s near-total abortion ban, which he signed into law earlier this month, is designed to set the stage for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the legality of abortion under Roe v. Wade.
“That was the whole design of the law. It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” Hutchinson told CNN’s “State of the Union” on March 21. “I did prefer a rape and incest exception. I didn’t get a vote on that. And so I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade. That was the intent of it.”
The law, known as the “Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act,” bars providers from performing abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.” The law makes no exceptions for rape and incest. Violations of the law are subject to up to $100,000 in fines and 10 years imprisonment.
Under the “legislative findings and intent” section of the law, lawmakers had indicated that the intent of the law is to allow the U.S. Supreme Court to “redress and correct the grave injustice and crime against humanity that is being perpetuated by its decisions in Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.” Those cases either made abortion legal in 50 states or expanded the right to make it harder for states to impose abortion restrictions.
Hutchinson signed the bill on March 9, saying that it received “overwhelming legislative support” including his own “sincere and long-held pro-life convictions.” But he expressed reservations in the bill, saying that he would prefer if the bill had provided exceptions for rape and incest.
He said on March 21 that he believes “there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case,” but will wait and see what the justices will do when presented with the question.
The law is set to go into effect 90 days after the Arkansas legislative session is adjourned for the year. This means that the law won’t be enforced until the summer.
Abortion advocates have said that they will challenge the Arkansas law in court. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas criticized the enactment, characterizing the law as “cruel and unconstitutional.”
“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,” Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said in a statement.
In recent years, several states have proposed bills aimed to limit abortions, such as “heartbeat bills” that ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected—usually at around six weeks of pregnancy. Many of these bills have led to a series of legal challenges in courts. These states hope their lawsuits may prove to be a vehicle to challenge Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. However, several courts across the country have already invalidated such “heartbeat bills.”