Arkansas Gov. Claims He Disagrees With the Abortion Ban He Signed into Law

Although he signed into law a 2019 trigger law that would ban all abortions in Arkansas “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency” if Roe v. Wade is overturned, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson claims he disagrees with the law’s lack of exemptions for victims of rape and incest.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Hutchinson tried to distance himself from the law he is responsible for putting into place by saying that a rape and incest exemption — which is not currently included in the law — would be “very appropriate.”

Hutchinson signed the 2019 law it even though he pushed the legislature to include rape and incest exemptions. Hutchinson has supported and signed other Arkansas laws restricting abortions, including a 2021 ban he advocated for that would subject abortion providers to felony charges, including a maximum of 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. That law also did not include exceptions for rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities, only life of the mother.

Host Dana Bash pushed Hutchinson on his position. “Your law only has exceptions for the life of the mother,” she said. “So, just to be clear, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, no woman, unless her life is at risk, will be able to get an abortion in Arkansas?”

“If Roe v. Wade is reversed, the trigger law in Arkansas would come into effect,” Hutchinson said. “And whenever I signed that law, I did express that I support … also the exceptions of rape and incest. The life of the mother and rape and incest are two exceptions I believe should have been added that did not have the support in the general assembly.”

Bash called him out on his hypocrisy, noting that while he said he disagreed, he still signed the bill into law. “Governor, you did sign the law that does not include any exceptions for rape and incest. I know you said that … you would rather that not be part of the law, but it is, and you signed it,” the host said.

Bash then asked Hutchinson to “discuss the real-world implications of this” and posed a hypothetical. “For example, why should an 11- or a 12-year-old girl who’s impregnated by her father or her uncle or another family member be forced to carry that child to term?” she queried.

“I have had to deal with that particular circumstance, even as governor,” Hutchinson answered. “And while it’s still life in the womb, life of the unborn … the conception was under criminal circumstances, either incest or rape. And so those are two exceptions I recognize, I believe are very appropriate.”

Later, Hutchinson said that he thinks that the possibility of exemptions “will be revisited” if Roe is overturned, although he did not offer proof of why he believes the legislature’s stance would change. But then he added a cop out. “There’s no guarantee of that, but the public opinion does matter whenever you come to your elected representatives,” he said.

Even without the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Arkansas has enacted strict limitations on abortions. Those seeking an abortion must receive mandatory state counseling and wait 72 hours before the procedure can be performed in one of only two clinics in the state that offer abortion services. And abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization can only occur in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or severely compromised physical health.

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