It's really just a matter of time before another state's abortion law ends up in front of the Supreme Court. Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert (R) is hoping that day comes sooner rather than later. With his latest legislative proposal, known as Senate Bill 6, Rapert is hoping to incite a legal battle that will make its way to the nine justices in Washington, D.C., which he believes could result in ending the abortion care protections secured by the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade.
The legislation Rapert introduced last week would ban all physician-administered abortions in the state except in three specific cases: saving the life of the pregnant person, removing an ectopic pregnancy (where the fetus grows outside the uterus), or responding if someone has had a miscarriage. There are no provisions allowing abortion of pregnancies that result from rape or incest, and the bill would make providing abortions a felony with fines of up to $100,000 or a penalty of up to 10 years of incarceration.
"Once again, legislation has been filed in Arkansas to interfere with people’s lives, intrude on their rights to make their own personal medical decisions, and try to block them from care," Holly Dickson, the executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said in a press release. "The bill in question, Senate Bill 6, is an outright abortion ban that is cruel and blatantly unconstitutional."
But the goal of this legislation is to change the definition of constitutionality of abortion altogether. Last year, Arkansas passed what the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research and think tank, calls a "trigger ban." That is, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, then the state has a ban on the books that will automatically take effect and ban nearly all physician-administered abortions. And it looks like Rapert hopes that his most recent legislation will trigger the trigger ban.
We know that because it's exactly what he said. "This is the trigger," Rapert told Arkansas Online. He added that given the new composition of the Supreme Court, alluding to the recent appointment of conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, "they're looking for the opportunity to [overturn Roe]. They have to have the right case or the right piece of legislation before them to do that."
In his near-decade spent in the Arkansas state legislature, Rapert has attempted to ban abortion and punish care providers at every turn. In 2013, he proposed the state's so-called "heartbeat bill," which built on legislation written by a conservative anti-abortion organization in Ohio. But this latest anti-abortion legislation also contradicts what residents in the state actually want. A study put out by the University of Arkansas found that 59% of people in the state were in favor of abortion in most cases.
Overturning Roe wouldn't just impact Arkansas, but nine other states that also have trigger laws on the books. As it stands now, the state is already extremely hostile to abortion and only has two abortion clinics, which are both located in Little Rock. Moreover, only one of those clinics offers abortions after 11 weeks. In fact, most pregnant people in the state have to go to great lengths to receive abortion care. According to the Guttmacher Institute, "In 2017, some 97% of Arkansas counties had no clinics that provided abortions, and 77% of Arkansas women lived in those counties."