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March against abortion in Arkansas. March 2019 image. /Jim Urquhart, Reuters.
March against abortion in Arkansas from March 2019. Photo: Jim Urquhart/Reuters.

Arkansas signs law banning abortion even in cases of rape

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has signed a law banning abortion on almost all grounds, including rape and incest.

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The law signed on Tuesday, March 9 by the Republican governor of Arkansas prohibits abortion even in cases of rape or incest. The only exception allowing the termination of a pregnancy will be if it is necessary to "save the life of the mother during a medical emergency," announced Governor Asa Hutchinson, referring to his pro-life and conservative leanings. 

The intent of this law is to pressure the U.S. Supreme Court to review and ultimately overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that extended abortion rights nationwide. 

The conservative wing of U.S. politics is convinced that, after the three appointments Donald Trump made before leaving the White House, the court would be open to overturning the decriminalization of abortion, "the purpose of this law is to pave the way for the Supreme Court to overturn the current jurisprudence," the Arkansas governor said in a statement. 

Conservatives "must abolish abortion in this nation just as we abolished slavery in the 19th century, all lives matter," said Republican Jason Rapert, the bill's sponsor. 

South Carolina's governor enacted another sweeping abortion ban last month, but it was blocked by a federal judge because of an appeal by Planned Parenthood. Alabama was also enacting a near-total ban on abortions in 2019 that was blocked due to court challenges.

If it reaches the Supreme Court, this change in the law would allow each state to do its will and would further increase territorial inequities.

The public's position on the news is polarized and support for the new law is strong, especially in religious circles. Over the past 20 years, southern and central states, historically conservative and religious territories, have increased restrictive abortion laws, for example, imposing a width for hallways leading to operating rooms, forcing many clinics to close their doors. 

On the opposite side, Planned Parenthood took a stand in a statement in which it emphasized that "this is politics at its worst."

"At a time when people need financial assistance and basic safety precautions, dismantling access to abortion is cruel, dangerous and blatantly unfair," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the organization.

The legislation would not go into effect until 90 days after the local legislature adjourns for this year, which translates into it not being enforceable until this summer at the earliest.

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