LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — An Arkansas lawmaker filed a bill this week to allow for abortion exceptions if a mother’s health is at risk. Under current policy, abortions are nearly totally banned.
State Rep. Denise Garner (D) sponsored the bill. In a statement, she said this would be a practical amendment to Arkansas policy.
“While some people seek abortions because they don’t want to be a parent, others choose to terminate because continuing a pregnancy could put their life in danger,” Garner said. “Termination may also be chosen because a fetus has lethal congenital abnormalities. With Roe overturned and abortion now determined by a patchwork of state laws, even people who want to continue their pregnancies have less control over their health.”
This will be the second abortion-related bill filed so far this session. An earlier bill ran by State Rep. Nicole Clowney (D) sought to allow for abortions in cases of rare fetal abnormalities inconsistent with life. That legislation failed in committee.
“This has overwhelming popular support,” Clowney said. “As long as our extreme abortion ban is in effect, women will suffer.”
Clowney said it will be a challenge getting Republican lawmakers to support any abortion exceptions, but it is important to continue pushing for change until it happens.
“We’re giving it our best shot now,” Clowney said. “Time will tell if our colleagues agree.”
Bob Ballinger is the Director of Law and Policy for the National Association of Christian Lawmakers. The former state senator helped form the policy now in place that restricts abortions in nearly all cases. He said Garner’s bill is unlikely to make it past committee.
“It would make better news if this were a real possibility,” Ballinger said.
Ballinger said he anticipates more attempts to create exceptions will be made, but they will be unsuccessful as long as the state continues in its supermajority Republican form.
“I think it’s politics and [Garner] playing to her base,” Ballinger said. “That’s what you see happening, and there’s really no chance of this getting passed.”
Dr. Janine Parry is a political scientist at the University of Arkansas who directs the yearly Arkansas Poll. The poll collects data from Arkansans about their thoughts on different political topics relevant at the time.
Parry said the results show Arkansans support exceptions in many cases.
“We got majority support,” Parry said.
Parry said policy does not match that data and she said that is unlikely to change for years, at the very least. She said the importance of primaries and the state’s supermajority red standing both play into that.
“We really can’t expect anything but more of the same,” Parry said. “It is a modern reality.”