WASHINGTON — The architect of the nation’s most restrictive abortion law expects other states will soon follow Arkansas’s lead.
"People are reaching out from all across the nation," state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said Friday. "I think it will show up in state legislatures around the country."
Rapert, who was in Washington, D.C., to attending a legislative conference, said he has been flooded by telephone calls and emails since the Arkansas Legislature voted Wednesday to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of his bill to ban abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Beyond media inquiries, including a New York Times reporter who flew to Little Rock for an interview, Rapert said most people are offering their support. But he said he has also gotten disparaging calls and threats from opponents of the law.
The key provision of the law, he said, is in establishing that a fetus is viable when a heartbeat can be detected. Abortions would be prohibited beyond that point, with exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies and fetal anomalies that would prevent the child from living after birth.
The American Civil Liberties Union called it the most restrictive abortion law in the nation and has vowed to mount a constitutional challenge.
A U.S. district judge in Arizona upheld a state ban on abortions after 20 weeks. That decision is being appealed. A U.S. district judge in Idaho this week struck down that state’s 20-week abortion ban.
Rapert said he expects a legal challenge but believes a compelling case can be made to uphold the fetal heartbeat law. He has also received a commitment from the non-profit Liberty Counsel to argue the case for free.
The Arkansas law, he said, is different from Idaho and has been crafted to avoid many of the contentious points raised against previous anti-abortion efforts.
"We ceded all the areas of contention over rape, incest and life of the mother. There were also amendments for medical emergencies and fetal anomalies," Rapert said.
Rapert was in the nation’s capitol to attend a meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators. He is chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee.
Meanwhile, Arkansas’ congressional delegation has largely steered clear of the abortion battle in Little Rock. Asked for their thoughts, most declined to offer any beyond saying they were pro-life.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was the exception, offering that he is "ready to stand in support of this law."
"I’m committed to pro-life initiatives and I’m pleased to see the support of Arkansas legislators who are working to protect the lives of the unborn. We need to create an environment that promotes an appreciation for family and all human life," Boozman said. "The work coming out of our state capitol is an energizing reminder to continue the fight to protect the sanctity of life."
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, issued a statement saying he is "a pro-life member of Congress who believes, like most Arkansans, that every life is sacred and must be protected."
Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said that he supports "all efforts to protect the unborn. We cannot live in a society where some human life is valued and other life is not."
Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, declined to issue any statement on the Arkansas law.