On Tuesday, the Arkansas legislature began a special session to vote on income tax cuts, so naturally a Republican state senator took the opportunity to introduce a Texas-style “sue thy neighbor” abortion ban. Texas, as you likely have heard, passed a law banning abortions after the detection of embryonic cardiac activity, which is at about six weeks of pregnancy, or two weeks after a missed period, if your periods are regular—and the Supreme Court let it take effect on September 1, effectively nullifying Roe v. Wade in the second largest state in the US.
The Arkansas bill, SB 13, is somehow even worse: It would outlaw abortions after the moment an egg is fertilized. That’s about two weeks before a missed period based on how doctors date pregnancy, which would make it total ban on abortion. The bill has enough co-sponsors to meet the two-thirds threshold to be considered in the totally unrelated special session, according to HuffPost. (Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a different near-total abortion ban in March, but it would be enforced by the state, not lawsuits by private citizens. That law remains blocked.)
Florida was the first state to introduce a Texas copycat bill mirroring the “heartbeat” language in September that would effectively ban abortion after six weeks, while Ohio lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would, like the Arkansas proposal, ban abortion starting at fertilization. Yesterday, lawmakers in Alabama pre-filed a bounty-hunter “heartbeat” bill. That’s four states that have introduced Texas copycat laws, and more will certainly follow—and not just in Southern states, as the Ohio example proves. Importantly, none of these bills have been voted on yet and Texas is the only state in the US with an early abortion ban currently in effect.
The Arkansas bill could be the next one to pass since there is an active special session whereas the other states are just gearing up for 2022.
Arkansas’s copycat bill is notable because the state borders Texas. Some of the Texans who’ve fled the state for care have traveled to the two clinics remaining in Arkansas and, if this bill were to pass, it would make these trips even more difficult and expensive, shrinking access in the region even further. As the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute noted in a November report:
“Even those who have the means to travel outside the state have encountered overloaded clinics in the four states bordering Texas...[m]edia reports have found that abortion clinics in the four neighboring states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico have experienced a large increase in the number of Texas residents obtaining abortions.”
States will continued to feel emboldened to pass these snitch-enforced abortion bans until the Supreme Court steps in on the Texas case and lets lawsuits against it proceed, as court-watchers thought it would do shortly after it heard the case on November 1. But here we are, still waiting, more than a month after that hearing and 100 days since the law took effect.
News that four more states have introduced abortion bans at six weeks of pregnancy or earlier might be part of why just 44 percent of registered voters said they’d heard about the 15-week abortion ban that the Supreme Court looks like it will use to overturn Roe in June 2022. States are flooding the zone with shit, which helps keep people panicked about near-total bans all while a comparatively “moderate” law could that could end legal abortion is flying relatively under the radar.