A bill to abolish abortions in Arkansas sailed through the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Wednesday (Feb. 10). SB 6, the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act, would abolish abortions in Arkansas, unless it is to save the life of a mother.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, along with the conservative Christian organization, Family Council, held a press conference on Wednesday morning to showcase support for the measure. Rapert touted the support his bill has received including support from the Arkansans Faith & Ethics Council – former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s HuckPAC, and the Arkansas Right to Life Committee (ARLC).
While ARLC supports this bill, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has not taken a stance – however – the general counsel for the national organization expressed concerns in a letter written to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
NRLC attorney James Bopp was asked by the governor to weigh in.
“In my considered legal opinion, based on my legal experience and long history of working to overturn Roe, the likelihood of overruling Roe by enacting SB 6 is very small and remote,” Bopp said.
Bopp said he was not speaking on behalf of NRLC, but as an attorney in his individual capacity.
Gov. Hutchinson released a statement, “I will continue to study the issue, but I have a number of concerns with SB 6.” He did not state what those concerns were.
On Wednesday afternoon, Rapert presented his bill and told committee members this is about saving the millions of babies who have been killed.
“With nearly 62 million little innocent baby girls and little baby boys killed through abortions in our nation since 1973, it is past time for our nation to abolish abortion,” he said.
Rapert added, “It’s time for the United States Supreme Court to redress and correct the grave injustices in the crime against humanity which is being perpetuated by the decisions in Roe v. Wade.”
Alongside Rapert was Allan Parker, president of the Justice Foundation. Parker was also the lead counsel for Norma McCorvey, formerly “Roe” of Roe v. Wade and Sandra Cano, the “Doe” of Doe v. Bolton – two landmark abortion rights cases. Parker told the committee he spent many years fighting, on behalf of McCorvey and Cano, to overturn the two cases that brought allowed legalized abortion.
Due to inclement weather, the committee voted to allow just five minutes of testimony each for those for and against the bill – a decision that did not sit well for those speaking against the bill.
“I want to first of all say how incredibly unfair this is,” said Karen Music with the Arkansas Abortion Support Network.
“People still have abortions. Republicans, Democrats, homeschoolers…Why? Because they need them.” Music said.
In a written statement, Gloria Pedro, a representative for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, called the bill “flawed and dangerous legislation,” saying it was “an absurd attempt to demand the Supreme Court reconsider Roe v. Wade.”
“Wasting time and taxpayer money with a publicity stunt bill like SB 6 ignores the reality of Arkansans suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic and from a lack of comprehensive health care in the state. The legislature should be passing legislation that has measurable and positive impacts on the lives of Arkansans. SB 6 does neither,” she wrote.
The committee passed the bill unanimously on a voice-vote. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
Editor’s note: Marine Glisovic is the senior political reporter for KATV.