Arkansas will ban all abortions except in medical emergencies as of August under legislation signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday, a measure that will be the nation's strictest abortion regulation if it is not overturned in court.
The abortion restriction, like many others passed in Republican states in recent years, is part of a conservative effort to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion.
The Arkansas abortion ban makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, and goes further than abortion restrictions passed in South Carolina and other states, which banned the procedure starting at six weeks into a pregnancy.
Alabama is the only state to have recently passed a similarly sweeping anti-abortion policy, when the state made it a felony for doctors to perform abortions except to save a mother's life in 2019. That law was struck down in federal court.
"Governor Hutchinson: we’ll see you in court," the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Hutchinson, a Republican, said in a statement he would have preferred exceptions for rape and incest, which he thought would have improved the law's chances of a favorable review by the U.S. Supreme Court. He said he signed it due to its "overwhelming legislative support."
The law contradicts "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," the governor's statement said.
The law is due to go into effect in August, 90 days after the Republican-led legislature is scheduled to adjourn.
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the United States, with opponents citing religious beliefs to declare it immoral, while abortion-rights activists say the procedure is basic healthcare and restrictions rob women of control over their bodies.
Women's healthcare and abortion provider Planned Parenthood denounced Arkansas' law and said politicians should be more focused on the state's COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts right now.
"Our patients deserve better. Planned Parenthood will work alongside its partners to fight this attack on our rights and freedoms," Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement.
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