Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), the lightning rod at the center of the latest pro-life veto override controversy, makes no apologies for helping legislate the most restrictive abortion bill in the U.S.
“I never thought standing up for human life would bring the kind of incoming fire that we’ve received, but I understand,” Rapert said in an interview on Talk Business Arkansas’ daily update.
Rapert said he’s confident his bill, SB 134 which restricts abortions after 12 weeks with limited exceptions, will stand up to constitutional scrutiny for two reasons.
First, he said that fetal homicide can be charged in Arkansas if someone kills a pregnant woman’s baby at the 12-week mark or later. “So we’ve now squared Arkansas law to be 12 weeks on both sides of that coin,” said Rapert.
“The other side of that coin is that Roe v. Wade said that states have a right to regulate abortion at approximately the end of the first trimester and the beginning of the second. That’s 12 weeks.”
Rapert said he pleaded with the Governor to sign SB 134 since Beebe was willing to reverse the death penalty if lawmakers would send him a bill.
He said he told the Governor, “I’m pleading with you because the same spot in your heart that would allow you to spare the life of a convicted murderer that killed an innocent person should be the same place in your heart that would allow you to spare the lives of innocent children.”
Beebe vetoed the bill on Monday, but lawmakers in both chambers have now overridden the veto making it state law.
Rapert said that despite the disagreement, his relationship with Gov. Beebe was on solid footing.
“Gov. Beebe could have never treated me more graciously, and his staff, after we received threats to our family,” Rapert said. “What I love about Arkansas is that at the end of the day, we can battle things out, but we’re Arkansans.”
He is looking forward to working with Beebe on further reducing the sales tax on groceries and a solution on health insurance for poor Arkansans.
As chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce committee, Rapert will have influence in the ultimate outcome of health insurance exchanges and the Medicaid-private option debate underway at the capitol.
“First and foremost, I’m completely against the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare,” said Rapert. However, he added, “I believe the legislature has a duty to act.”
With the law being upheld, Rapert said lawmakers will have to make choices from “bad options.”
He’s currently leaning towards support for a “non-profit” health insurance exchange, not a state-federal partnership or a federal-run exchange. He said the non-profit exchange could be made up of gubernatorial, legislative and stakeholder appointments with oversight.
Rapert also said that the new private-option for Medicaid eligibles being discussed needs to be structured in a way that invites more competition to Arkansas.
You can view his interview below or listen to the mp3 version here.