The Freedom From Religion Foundation condemns Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson for signing into law a near-total abortion ban.
Senate Bill 6 would permit abortion care only in rare cases to save the lives of pregnant women, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Hutchinson claims that he is motivated by his “sincere and pro-life convictions.” These so-called “pro-life convictions” are undermining the lives and constitutional rights of women throughout Arkansas — and potentially the country.
State Sen. Jason Rapert, the bill’s sponsor, has equated abortion to slavery and described the abortion ban as though it were a religious tenet. In a tweet on Feb. 22, Rapert described abortion as a “crime against humanity” while sharing the Republican Party of Arkansas’ 2020 platform. Notably, two principles on the platform are “the power of faith in God Almighty” and “the sanctity of life.” Make no mistake: This anti-abortion bill is about imposing religion on a secular nation at the expense of women’s health.
Senate Bill 6 is designed not only to deny reproductive freedom to Arkansas women, but to also deny it to citizens around the country by challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade 1973 decision. That long-established decision ruled that it is unconstitutional to impose a pre-viability abortion ban, which is around 24-26 weeks of gestation. Hutchinson has openly stated that the goal is to bring it to the Supreme Court in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade. Other states including South Carolina have recently passed anti-abortion bills that they, too, hope will lead to the repeal of Roe. The ultraconservative Supreme Court, whose balance has been tipped by the replacement of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Christian nationalist Amy Coney Barrett, makes the future of Roe v Wade uncertain as these religion-backed bills wend their way to the high court.
The ACLU of Arkansas got it right to describe this bill as “cruel and unconstitutional,” accomplishing nothing but “stress for patients, while ignoring the pressing challenges that Arkansans face.” It has promised to challenge Senate Bill 6 in court.
This egregious ban endangers the health of millions of women. Studies have shown that denying abortion care can lead to long-term health consequences and contributes to poor maternal health outcomes. In contrast, abortion is an extremely safe procedure and complications are rare, with no long-term consequences on a woman’s physical or mental health after an abortion. Simply put, there is no science-based reason to ban abortion — only religious motivations.
“These draconian bills ironically are supported by the same legislators who claim they want to get government off our backs,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “It is unacceptable that these male-dominated legislatures, for religious reasons, seek to compel unwilling women to endanger their health, lives, existing families and future by forcing them to carry unwanted pregnancies.”
The Arkansas abortion ban has dangerous consequences for the women of this country. As a secular nation, we must stand up for science, bodily autonomy and the human right to health care — including abortion.