Analysis Abortion

Arkansas Heartbeat Ban Fails in Committee; Too Strict for Some, Too Lenient for Others

Robin Marty

The heartbeat ban may be stuck in committee. Why? It's not strict enough.

Arkansas heartbeat ban sponsor Jason Rapert has done almost everything he can think of to get a vote on his bill in the state senate. He offered to move from a vaginal ultrasound to an abdominal one, a change that would add a few weeks to the period before someone is able to access abortion but still made it the most restrictive (and unconstitutional) in the nation. He even offered exceptions in the case of sexual assault, severe fetal anomalies, and medical emergencies involving the pregnant woman or girl. Finally, he took out the section that would have jailed doctors who broke the law, simply revoking their license instead.

All his efforts have been in vain, however. The heartbeat ban remains stuck in a House committee, unable to garner the majority needed to get it to the full House for a vote. The problem? Now representatives don’t support the bill because it’s too lenient.

The Associated Press reports that “Republican Rep. Ann Clemmer, the bill’s House sponsor, said the measure failed to garner enough support because some proponents of the original version didn’t like the new exemptions.” Apparently not forcing someone to carry doomed pregnancies to term, forcing them to jeopardize their own health to remain pregnant, and refusing to criminally penalize doctors is a deal breaker for committee members intent on ending abortion for good.

Then again, for some bill supporters the measure was just as much about provoking a court challenge as it was forcing all pregnancies to be carried to term.

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Rep Clemmer had early stated that the bill was “aimed at pushing the envelope on constitutional law surrounding abortion,” telling the Associated Press earlier in the week that, “Judges don’t typically rule unless a law is passed first. We believe that it is time for the court to look at it.”

They may not get that shot at the courts if they can’t reach a consensus on the bill. However, they may not need to rely on that bill in the end. The Senate is preparing to vote on a 20 week abortion ban that is no more constitutional than the heartbeat ban, but is much more likely to pass both bodies and actually be put into effect in the state.

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