Arkansas Lawmakers Pass 72-hour Abortion Waiting Period

April 6, 2019 Updated: April 6, 2019

LITTLE ROCK—Arkansas lawmakers have sent the governor legislation requiring women to wait 72 hours before having an abortion, one of the strictest waiting periods in the country.

The majority-Republican Senate on Thursday, April 4, approved the proposal to expand the current waiting period of 48 hours by a 29-5 vote. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who plans to sign it into law.

The bill requires the waiting period between when women are counseled by a physician about the procedure and undergoing it.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson answers reporters’ questions as Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, background, listens at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on April 1, 2015. (Danny Johnston/Photo via AP)

The legislation will make Arkansas the sixth state with a 72-hour waiting period, joining Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah.

The measure is among a flurry of abortion restrictions Arkansas lawmakers approved this year, including an 18-week abortion ban that Hutchinson signed into law last month.

The ban will take effect 90 days after the Legislature formally adjourns this year’s session, which is expected to occur in May. A nearly identical 18-week ban has been sent to Utah’s Republican governor.

Utah state capitol
The Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 28, 2018 (Rick Bowmer/AP Photo)

Other states have sought to enact even stricter bans.

Kentucky’s governor signed legislation Friday banning abortion as early as six weeks, but a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order to block it from taking effect.

Abortion

While support for abortion, in general, has crept up over the years, respondents to polls have long been against late-term abortions.

In a 2019 Marist Poll, 80 percent of respondents said they would like abortion limited to, at most, the first three months of pregnancy. And 71 percent of respondents said they oppose abortions after 20 weeks.

A poll conducted by YouGov and the pro-life group Americans United for Life in February found that 80 percent of respondents were opposed to abortion the day before the child is born and 79 percent opposed abortion in the third trimester at all.

In addition, asked about a Northam-style proposal of removing medical care for a child after birth, 82 percent of respondents said they opposed such a measure.

“This survey vividly reveals both the American people’s common-sense appreciation for the sanctity of life and the widespread horror, even among self-identified pro-choice Americans, of new laws like New York’s that effectively allow abortion up until the moment of delivery,” said Catherine Foster, president of Americans United for Life, in a statement.

The majority of respondents to a Hill.TV poll in 2018 said that abortion should be illegal or only legal in limited cases, such as rape, incest, or to save the life of a prospective mother. Only 18 percent of respondents said abortion should be legal in all circumstances, including the third trimester.

In a Gallup poll in 2018, 60 percent of respondents said abortions should be legal in the first three months but 72 percent said abortions should be illegal in the second trimester.

And 87 percent said that abortions should be illegal in the final trimester, or in the final three months before full term.

“Most Americans generally see some reason for abortion to be legal, but far more think it should be legal in the first trimester than in the second or third,” Gallup summarized.

The view has held for decades. In 2003, for instance, 68 percent of respondents said that abortions should be illegal in the second trimester and 84 percent of people said abortions should be illegal in the third trimester.

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