Gov. Asa Hutchinson sparked nationwide controversy Tuesday after he signed legislation prohibiting abortion under any circumstances, except to save the life of the pregnant person.
The law, originally Senate Bill 6, does not include exceptions for rape or incest, an omission about which Hutchinson had previously voiced concerns. Lawmakers’ intent behind the legislation is to force a challenge of the precedent set in Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court, Hutchinson said in a press release March 9. The bill could go into effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns for the year.
“SB 6 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,” Hutchinson said. “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.”
Despite his reservations, Hutchinson said he chose to sign the bill because of the overwhelming legislative support and his pro-life convictions. The bill passed the state house 76-19 on March 3, and the state senate 27-7 on Feb. 22.
Anna-Catherine King, a junior, said she thinks the bill will create a burden for Arkansas women, and will force them to seek out illegal and unsafe abortions.
“I think this bill is harmful for Arkansas women in general, not necessarily just (sexual assault) victims,” King said. “It just seems like it’s an unnecessary limitation being pushed upon women as they seek out health care.”
Under SB6, doctors performing an unlawful abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and recieve a $100,000 fine.
Leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union condemned Hutchinson for signing the bill, and said they will challenge the measure in court. Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a statement that the abortion ban is another in a series of attempts by Arkansas politicians to dictate people’s personal medical decisions and violate their personal autonomy. She said the ban “is 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,” Dickson said. “Governor Hutchinson, we’ll see you in court.”
Hutchinson has signed several abortion restrictions into effect during his time in office. In 2019, he approved a measure that would immediately ban abortion in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Lillie Bolton, a senior, said she thinks that legally classifying abortion as murder does not make sense.
“It doesn’t seem to make sense that you would say abortion should be illegal because you’re killing a person or a living thing, since by law it’s not technically a living thing until it’s out of the womb and breathing,” Bolton said.
Joshua Snyder, a junior and anti-abortion supporter, said he thinks the newly passed law is a good first step toward repealing Roe v. Wade, but he does not support the entirety of the bill. He believes there should be exceptions in cases where a pregnancy does not occur by choice.
“Rape and incest are really unfortunate situations, and I think that women who didn’t get to make the choice should be able to make that decision on their own,” Snyder said.
Bolton said that although she does not know if she would get an abortion herself, she thinks everyone should have the choice to get one.
“When I was younger I was more on the side that I probably would not get an abortion, but that never meant that I was against other women getting abortions,” Bolton said. “I think you should always have the choice to get an abortion or not.”
This bill comes as a double standard for how men and women are treated when it comes to regulating their bodies, Bolton said.
“Men can go into a doctor’s office and can say ‘I want a vasectomy,’ no questions asked,” Bolton said. “When a woman wants to, say, get her tubes tied, it’s really hard for a woman to be able to do that. It seems unfair that we’re regulating women when we’re not regulating men.”