In the ongoing tennis match that is reproductive rights in Arkansas, Governor Mike Beebe vetoed a 12-week abortion ban earlier this week, mere days after the state Senate overruled Beebe’s veto of a 20-week abortion ban. (Both bans include exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and if the woman’s life is at risk; the 12-week ban also has an exemption for “highly lethal fetal disorders.”)
And then, today the Republican-controlled legislature overruled Beebe’s veto, making Arkansas the answer to the question, “Which state is most hostile to women?” … for this week, at least.
The new ban, which is officially known as the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act,” seeks to outlaw abortion after the point in pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat can be detected through an abdominal ultrasound. The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Jason Rapert, initially sought to ban abortion after a heartbeat can be detected at all, which is generally around the sixth week of pregnancy. However, to reliably hear a heartbeat at this stage, doctors often must use a transvaginal ultrasound; taking a page from Virginia’s transvaginal probe fiasco, Rapert and his cohort decided to show some restraint with their bill.
If only they applied the same restraint to themselves, and their zest for granting fetuses the same rights as the women that carry them. Banning abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy flies in the face of settled law, and in state after state, attempts to outlaw abortion at this point or earlier have failed. While the ultimate goal of this law, like so many other brazen attacks on choice in recent years, is to bring a case before the Supreme Court that could overturn Roe, it seems likely that this particular ban will be overturned by the lower courts and that the current Court would be disinclined to hear it.
In the meantime, the bill could go into effect as early as this summer, although both the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have vowed to bring legal challenges to the law. Yet the sad fact remains that women’s rights and freedoms are once again held hostage by politicians that have no qualms about ignoring the complexities of real life in favor of enacting unconstitutional, ideologically-motivated laws.