Sen. Jason Rapert‘s bill to ban abortions at 18 weeks of gestation or later, now amended to include an exception for rape and incest, passed the Senate Public Health committee yesterday and is on to the full Senate.
The bill, with Rep. Robin Lundstrum as the House co-sponsor, sailed through the House last week with little debate.
The bill is unconstitutional under existing Supreme Court precedent. Abortions are currently banned at 20 weeks in Arkansas — similar bans have been struck down in two other states but the 20-week law has thus far not been challenged in Arkansas.
Rapert’s bill has no exception for health problems for mother or fetus except for a physician’s judgment that it’s necessary to save the life of the mother or prevent “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function,” and no exceptions for terminally impaired fetuses.
Rapert amended the bill yesterday, however, to newly include an exception for rape and incest, the same provision that exists in the current 20-week ban.
Max has previously written on the rarity of abortions at this point in the pregnancy:
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.
Gloria Pedro of Planned Parenthood spoke against the bill and made the same point:
While women should not have to justify their personal medical decisions, the reality is that abortion later in pregnancy is rare, and it often happens under complex circumstances, the kind of situations where a woman and her doctor need every medical option available to them. Abortions later in pregnancy often involve serious, fatal diagnosis and serious risks to a woman’s health, and this bill makes no exceptions for that.
More from Pedro:
HB1439 is an unconstitutional attempt to ban safe, legal abortion in Arkansas. This bill poses a serious threat to women’s health, ignoring women’s individual needs and circumstances and seeking to ban abortions at 18 weeks. However we feel about abortion at different points in pregnancy, a woman’s health should drive important medical decisions, not political agendas. Politicians are not medical experts and this is not an area where they should be interfering. Throughout her pregnancy, a woman must be able to maker her own decisions with the help of medical professionals who she trusts.
The bill passed on a voice vote with no dissent, with no questions or debate.