On Tuesday, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed legislation into law that bans nearly all abortions in the state—a move that anti-abortion advocates are hoping will force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its Roe v. Wade decision. Although Gov. Hutchinson did express concerns about the bill, which only allows for abortion in order to save the life of the mother and does not provide exceptions for circumstances of rape or incest, he still signed it into law because of his “sincere and long-held pro-life convictions.”
“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,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. However, the Arkansas governor’s choice to sign the bill at all was an overt act of support, since the legislation would have become law on Wednesday afternoon even without his signature, as it only takes a legislative majority to override a governor’s veto in Arkansas. Abortion rights activists plan to challenge the legislation in court before it takes effect this coming summer.
Ever since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett last October gave the conservative judges a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, the anti-abortion movement has been looking for an opportunity to push the court to reconsider the landmark 1973 ruling which legalized abortion across the country. It’s not surprising that the Arkansas legislature decided to try to force the Supreme Court’s hand—even prior to the passage of this bill, Arkansas had some of the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country.
Since Hutchinson took office in 2015, he has signed numerous bills into law that further restrict abortion access in the state, including several that were blocked by judges after being deemed unconstitutional. Currently, a 2019 law Hutchinson signed which would have blocked abortions in the state anytime after 18 weeks is on hold in the midst of a legal battle.