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Arkansas bill would ban abortion if Roe ruling overturned

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas lawmaker filed legislation Tuesday that would trigger an abortion ban in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1973 decision that legalized the procedure across the nation.

The proposal from Republican Sen. Jason Rapert was filed on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision from the high court, and is among several anti-abortion measures the predominantly GOP Legislature is expected to take up in the coming weeks. Rapert’s proposal would ban all abortions, except for medical emergencies, if Roe is overturned or the U.S. Constitution is amended to allow states to prohibit the procedure.

Abortion opponents have said they’re hopeful that sweeping abortion bans might have a chance of prevailing before the U.S. Supreme Court, with President Donald Trump’s two appointees.

“Arkansas wants to protect the lives of unborn children, as do many other states in the country. This bill allows us, within the parameters of the current federal law, to state that the moment that changes, immediately abortion would be outlawed in our state, except to save the life of the mother,” Rapert said.

Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota have similar “trigger” laws that would automatically ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Conversely, lawmakers in several other states are considering efforts to protect abortion rights even if the 1973 decision is overturned or weakened.

An amendment to Arkansas’ constitution voters approved in 1988 says the state’s policy is to “protect the life of every unborn child from concept until birth.”

Abortion rights supporters said the bill would take away a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.

“The fact is no woman should be forced to maintain a pregnancy against her will, which is exactly what this bill proposes…No matter how we may feel about abortion, we can all agree a woman should be able to make her own personal private medical decisions without interference from some bureaucrats,” said Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas.

Arkansas has enacted some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws since Republicans won control of the state Legislature in 2012, and many have been the subject of court battles. Rapert sponsored a 2013 law later struck down that would have banned abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy if doctors detect a fetal heartbeat.

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