LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Thursday signed into law a bill banning an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation.
Hutchinson signed House Bill 1032 by Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, shortly after 4:30 p.m., a spokesman said. Earlier Thursday, the Senate approved the bill in a 25-6 vote and sent it to the governor’s desk.
The House approved the bill three days earlier in a 78-10 vote.
Titled the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, the legislation bans a procedure in which the cervix is dilated and surgical instruments are used to extract the contents of the uterus. The ban is set to take effect 90 days after the end of the session, which is likely to happen in the spring.
Supporters of the ban have called the procedure gruesome and barbaric. Opponents of the ban have said dilation and evacuation is the most common second-trimester abortion method and the safest for the mother.
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas have said the legislation is unconstitutional because it would infringe on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion before a fetus becomes viable, or able to live outside the womb.
Presenting Mayberry’s bill on the Senate floor Thursday, Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, said it “doesn’t outlaw abortion” but instead targets one type of procedure. He said he has seen disturbing footage of the procedure being performed.
“You see a baby, an unborn life, a fetus, engaging in fight or flight reaction to the forceps going into the womb, trying to remove an arm, remove a leg,” he said.
Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said doctors are more qualified to determine what medical procedures are appropriate than the Legislature.
The measure includes an exemption for situations in which an abortion is necessary to prevent either the death of the mother or serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the mother.
The legislation also states that a civil suit may be filed by a woman who receives or attempts to receive the procedure or by the woman’s parent, spouse, guardian or health-care provider. It makes performing the procedure a Class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Sen. Will Bond, D-Little Rock, a lawyer, said the measure’s exception to protect the health of the mother is very limited and said the legislation does not include any exception for a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. The bill also “appears to allow litigation amongst family members” over an abortion, he said.
Mayberry said Wednesday the measure does not prohibit a woman from receiving a different type of procedure to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.
Mississippi and West Virginia have similar laws. Bans in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma have been blocked pending the resolution of court challenges.