Arkansas abortion bill would require rape, incest reports

Politics

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2020, file photo, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks to reporters in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, signed into law legislation banning nearly all abortions in the state, a sweeping measure that supporters hope will force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its landmark Roe v. Wade decision but opponents vow to block before it takes effect later this year. (AP Photo/Andrew Demillo, File)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Senate on Thursday voted to require victims of rape and incest to have first reported the crime to law enforcement before they could undergo an abortion past the state’s 20-week limit.

The move, however, could be moot if an outright abortion ban Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a little over a week ago moves forward. Abortion rights supporters have vowed to challenge that ban, which doesn’t include rape or incest exemptions before it takes effect later this summer.

It also comes as the state is defending an 18-week abortion ban put on hold by the courts that does include those exceptions.

The bill approved on a 26-6 vote Thursday would add the reporting requirement to all of the state’s abortion cutoffs, including ones blocked by the courts, that allow the procedure in cases of rape and incest. Abortion providers would be required to report to the state the number of procedures performed because of rape or incest.

Opponents of the requirement said it will further victimize women, considering the high number of rapes that aren’t reported to police. About three out of four rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to law enforcement, according to the Justice Department.

“Obviously every woman who goes through that experience is suffering from horrible trauma at that time and for the rest of her life, and in my judgment, this bill only adds to that trauma,” Democratic Sen. Clarke Tucker said before the vote.

Supporters of the bill said the requirement will help the state have better data on how many abortions are performed because of rape and incest, especially as the state defends its outright. Abortion rights groups have said they plan to sue to block that ban before it takes effect later this summer.

“It’s also valuable that the assailants can be brought to justice, and that reporting is very important,” Republican Sen. Blake Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, said before the vote.

Hutchinson signed the abortion ban earlier this month, despite expressing concerns about it not including rape and incest exceptions

The bill approved Thursday now heads to the majority-Republican House.

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