While pro-life supporters hope the measure will encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, opponents of the law are seeking to block it before it’s enacted.
The pro-life bill, now called the “Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act,” bans all abortion, except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency, and does not include exceptions for rape and incest.
“I will sign SB6 because of overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions,” Hutchinson said in a statement on the signing of the bill.
The Republican governor added that he would have preferred that the bill include rape and incest exceptions.
“SB6 is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law,” he added. “I would have preferred the legislation to include the exceptions for rape and incest, which has been my consistent view, and such exceptions would increase the chances for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America Action, a group that worked on behalf of the legislation, told Breitbart News on March 4 that Hutchinson should sign the bill “so that the lives of pre-born children will be protected in law.”
The legislation won’t take effect until 90 days after the majority-Republican Legislature adjourns this year’s session—that is, 90 days after April 30. Opponents to the pro-life bill said they plan to challenge the ban in court before then.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas called the ban “cruel and unconstitutional.”
“Governor Hutchinson: we’ll see you in court,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Holly Dickson said, reported The Associated Press.
“This is politics at its very worst,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement, according to the AP. “At a time when people need economic relief and basic safety precautions, dismantling abortion access is cruel, dangerous, and blatantly unjust.”
Hutchinson had previously signed several abortion restrictions into law since he took office in 2015.
In January 2017, he signed into law a measure to ban dilation and evacuation, a common abortion method employed in the second trimester of a pregnancy. In March of the same year, Hutchinson signed a law to require doctors to investigate their patients to ensure that the mother is not seeking an abortion because of the sex of the child.
In February 2019, he signed into law a bill that would automatically ban abortion in Arkansas if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, becoming the fifth state to have an “abortion trigger law.”
Later in March of the same year, he signed into law a measure to ban abortion 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. That one had exceptions for medical emergencies, rape, and incest. It is currently on hold due to a court challenge.
Several other restrictions are still being considered in the Legislature, including one approved by the Senate a day earlier that would require a woman seeking an abortion to first be shown an ultrasound.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.