For years now, Republican-led state legislatures have been chipping away at abortion rights, making the process more difficult and expensive, regulating clinics that provide the procedure into oblivion. New Mexico even tried to deny rape victims abortions on the grounds that they would be ‘tampering with evidence.’ Now, Arkansas has enacted the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. And it’s time that someone stood up for a woman’s right to choose.
Arkansas’s new “Human Heartbeat Protection Act” will outlaw abortions that happen after 12 weeks, the earliest time that a fetus’s heartbeat would be detectable by ultrasound. No other state has ever passed legislation to restrict abortion within a pregnancy’s first trimester.
Arkansas’s Democratic Governor Mike Beebe vetoed the controversial and most likely unconstitutional bill. However, the Republican-dominated legislature, plus a few Democratic allies, had enough votes to override the Governor’s veto. The bill’s unconstitutionality is obvious given the current abortion rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. The legendary court case says that women will be allowed the right to an abortion as long as the fetus is not past the point of viability, where it could possibly survive outside of the mother’s womb. Within the first trimester, there’s absolutely no chance of viability.
This extreme bill might finally convince pro-choice supporters to act on the continued infringement of abortion rights. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, says in the New York Times, “It has no chance of surviving a court challenge.”
Because the law is so blatantly challenging Roe, even some anti-abortion activists are unhappy that it was pushed through in Arkansas. James Bopp Jr, an anti-abortion lawyer from Indiana, says of the bill, “As much as we would like to protect the unborn at that point, it is futile and it won’t save any babies.” Much of the same criticism has been leveled at those who support Personhood initiatives that would outlaw all abortions, along with some forms of birth control and possibly in vitro fertilization.
Arkansas’s extreme law should spur pro-choice supporters into action, and to the Supreme Court if necessary. We should not sit back and watch as women’s reproductive rights slip away, little by little, week by week, state by state. This new law is a clear sign that something needs to be done to stop state legislatures from removing the rights of women guaranteed by the federal courts