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Arkansas Governor Admits Near-Total Abortion Ban Is Unconstitutional

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Sunday admitted that the near-total abortion ban he signed into law earlier this month is unconstitutional but said the bill was designed to “directly challenge” the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that protects a pregnant woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

Key Facts

Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Hutchinson said the new Arkansas law, which only allows abortions to protect the life of the mother, was designed as a vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which struck down several Texas laws that criminalized abortion.

“It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” Hutchinson told CNN’s Dana Bash of the Arkansas law, before saying he thinks there’s a “very narrow chance” the Supreme Court will ultimately hear the case.

Hutchinson also said he had hoped the Arkansas Republican lawmakers who passed the law would have allowed abortions in the event of rape or incest but that they decided against a vote for those exceptions.

According to CNN, there have been 11 state-passed laws in the U.S. since 2019 that ban abortions past a certain point in pregnancy, but none have gone into effect and most have been blocked by judges at the federal level, before making it to the Supreme Court.

Key Background

On March 9, Hutchinson signed the abortion bill, known as SB6, which prohibits abortion “in all cases except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.” At the time, he said the bill was intended to go before the Supreme Court and help overturn Roe v. Wade, but he stopped short of calling it unconstitutional. The law  is slated to go into effect in August. Penalties for those who perform an abortion include a fine of up to $100,000 and jail time of up to 10 years.

What To Watch For

Abortion advocates are planning to challenge the law in court before it goes into effect, but none have yet to do so. Though chances the law gets escalated to the highest court are slim, pro-life activists are betting there is a possibility the Supreme Court’s conservative majority could overturn it. 

Crucial Quote 

“I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. That is the intent of it,” Hutchinson said Sunday. “I think there’s a very narrow chance the Supreme Court will accept that case, but we’ll see.” 

Chief Critic

“Abortion is legal in all 50 states, including Arkansas, and we’ll fight as long as it takes to keep it that way,” Holly Dickson, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement on March 9. “Governor Hutchinson: We’ll see you in court.”

Further Reading

Arkansas Governor Signs Into Law Near-Total Ban On Abortion (Forbes)

Arkansas Lawmakers OK Bill That Would Ban Nearly All Abortions, Including In Cases Of Rape Or Incest (Forbes)

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