Arkansas’ Republican governor said Sunday that he signed a near-total abortion ban into law earlier this month because he wants the Supreme Court to eventually consider the legislation and overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure in the US.
“That was the whole design of the law. It is not constitutional under Supreme Court cases right now,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” “I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.”
“I think there’s a very narrow chance that the Supreme Court will accept that case, but we’ll see,” the governor said, noting he preferred that the legislation included a rape and incest exception.
The Arkansas law bans providers from performing abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency,” and makes no exceptions for instances of rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Those found to violate the law could face a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
The abortion law is slated to go into effect 91 days after the end of the Arkansas legislative session, which is currently set for May 3, according to Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the Senate bill.
Of the 11 so-called gestational bans – which bar abortions past a certain point in pregnancy – passed since the start of 2019, none have gone into effect after most of them have been blocked by judges. Those include a similar near-total abortion ban passed in Alabama in 2019 and an 18-week bill passed by Arkansas in 2019.
But the bill’s supporters see the measure as a key stand on the issue that reflects the views of those in their state, and they, like Hutchinson, welcome the chance at spurring a court fight that could reverse Roe.
“We expect that it will be challenged,” Rapert said, adding that he is hopeful that the tenets of the bill compel the court to respond to “a very broad, widespread public outcry on the issue.”
The lawmaker denounced rape and incest but stood by the law’s lack of exceptions for the two crimes, saying, “How could we look at any human baby and say that they are not worthy of life simply because their birth was a result of a violent act.”
Arkansas already has several abortion restrictions in effect. Abortion seekers must receive an in-person warning from their providers 72 hours beforehand, including information on prenatal and neonatal care and child support services, to access the procedure. Abortions after 20 weeks are already banned in the state except in instances of rape, incest or life-threatening or other serious physical endangerment to the pregnant woman.
CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.