Arkansas will likely be the first state to pass a bill similar to Texas’ six-week abortion ban the most extreme abortion restriction in U.S. history that forced a lot to flee the state receive care.
Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert (R) announced last week that he will present the Arkansas Heartbeat Protection Act on October 25 during a special legislative session. Although Rapert has yet to officially release the bill, he noted it will include “a civil cause of action just like Texas”. It is very likely that the legislation reflects SB 8, especially coming from Rapert who, when SB 8 came into law in September, Recount media: “What Texas has done is absolutely brilliant.”
“Arkansas was recently named the most pro-life state in the country,” Rapert said on Twitter earlier this week. “It should be easy to pass the Texas-style heartbeat bill at our next special session.”
In addition to banning abortion after six weeks (a point at which many people still don’t realize they are pregnant), Texas SB 8 includes financial incentives for private citizens to seek out and prosecute anyone who “helps or encourages” Texans to try to have an abortion. If someone successfully sues, they could receive a bonus of at least $ 10,000 and have all of their legal fees paid by the opposing party.
“We take this very, very seriously,” said Emily Wales, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “We know we have a number of lawmakers here in Arkansas who are eager to be on the front line to end access to abortion, regardless of the impact on the citizens they serve.”
Reproductive rights defenders warned the country when SB 8 passed this copy legislation in other red states was likely. And, so far, the legislation is working as intended by Republican lawmakers. The restriction forced pregnant Texans seeking an abortion to flee the state; it has instilled fear in many people who are confused by the intentionally vague legislation; and those are frosty conversations on the ground for vendors and organizers who fear the legal ramifications.
The same is likely to happen in Arkansas if the state successfully passes Rapert’s copycat bill.
“The overwhelming majority of the Arkansans would lose access to healthcare,” said Wales. As the leader of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which serves Oklahoma as well as Nebraska, Wales knows all too well the damage caused by restrictions like SB 8. Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma see ” a lot of crisis patients crossing Texas state borders, ”Wales said.
“The reality of what this means for the region is very, very real and present,” she said. “It would only increase this crisis for the Arkansans who would then be forced to travel, if they can afford it, to even more distant states – potentially crushing neighboring states trying to support the Texans.”
Arkansas already has a long list of anti-abortion laws on the books that severely restrict access to care for pregnant women in the state. In the last legislative session alone, the state passed 20 restrictions on abortion. This year alone Arkansas has passed an almost total ban on abortion it was finally blocked by a federal judge. And the state also passed triggering legislation in 2019 that will immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade – the landmark Supreme Court case that protects the right to abortion is overturned. Currently there are only two abortion clinics in the entire state of Arkansas, and 77% of women live in countries without an abortion clinic.
Prior to sponsoring the Texan-style copycat abortion ban, Rapert also created and sponsored the Arkansas trigger ban and near-total abortion ban.
Lawmakers expanded on their thoughts on abortion earlier this month, story the Southwest Times Record: “If I had what I wanted I would go aboard the abortion clinic in West Little Rock this weekend and be done with that because it’s what the people of Arkansas want, but I’m working in a system, and we respect that we’ve passed laws, they’re struck down, we’re coming back to them.
Majority of Arkansas people do not support passing a Texan-style abortion ban, recent report says Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College Poll of more than 900 Arkansans. About 50% said they opposed a copycat bill in Arkansas, while 47% said they supported it.
Rapert did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Prior to Arkansas, Florida was actually the first state to introduce a Texas SB 8 mimic bill. Florida State Representative Webster Barnaby (R) introduced HB 167 in the State House of Representatives in September. The bill mirrors almost word for word SB 8 and includes a section on deputizing for private citizens by offering a reward of at least $ 10,000. (Barnaby did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.)
Reproductive rights advocates on the ground in Florida, however, aren’t too worried about the copy bill becoming law. Florida has attempted to pass a six-week abortion ban once a year for the past few years and nothing has resulted, said Damien Filer, communications consultant at Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. Filer said with “a high degree of confidence” that the Texan-style impersonator Bill is not going anywhere.
The most likely scenario, Filer said, is that the state legislature will introduce and support something closer to a Mississippi abortion ban, which bans abortion after 15 weeks and is threatens to overthrow Roe.
“We think they will use [the copycat bill] as a way to push through something that’s more like a Mississippi ban and be able to say, “Hey, we listened to the people and that’s not the extreme thing they did in Texas,” Filer explained. “Our feeling is that they are going to position something closer to the Mississippi bill as the milder, gentler abortion ban.”
Within two months of SB 8 coming into effect, at least 10 other states are working to adopt a Texan-style abortion restriction. In addition to Florida and Arkansas, lawmakers in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, North Dakota South and West Virginia have expressed support for passing similar legislation in their home states.
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