The anti-abortion Family Council says the House Public Health Committee this afternoon approved HB 1439 to ban abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy It may hit the House agenda tomorrow.
The bill by lead sponsors Rep. Robin Lundstrum and Sen. Jason Rapert is unconstitutional under existing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which prevents states from banning abortion before viability of the fetus. Arkansas learned this once before in a losing court case and is prepared to try again.
Abortions are currently banned at 20 weeks in Arkansas, likely unconstitutional, too, but as yet unchallenged because the necessity for such abortions is so rare.
According to 2016 data, only 76 abortions were performed in Arkansas at 18 weeks gestation or later — 50 at 18 weeks and 26 at 19 weeks. None at 20 weeks or later. They were likely the result of medical complications for the mother or fetus. There is no exception in the legislation for health problems for mother or fetus except for a physician’s judgment it’s necessary to save the life of the mother or prevent “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” No exceptions for rape or terminally impaired fetuses.
In the name of religion, the state proposes to make felons of doctors who terminate a severe problem pregnancy and to add to the grief faced by several dozen women a year in fraught medical circumstances.