Arkansas passed the country’s most restrictive ban yesterday. The Republican-led state legislature overcame a gubernatorial veto and the constitutional right to an abortion established by Roe v. Wade to make abortions illegal after twelve weeks, which is when a fetus’s heartbeat can be detected by abdominal ultrasound. An earlier proposal from the bill’s sponsor, Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert, banned abortions after six weeks, but was scrapped because the vaginal ultrasound required to detect a fetal heartbeat at that point is too unpopular.
Unlike the depressingly effective, devil-in-the-details abortion restrictions favored by the Americans United for Life, the fetal heartbeat law is so beyond the pale that National Right to Life general counsel James Bopp Jr. told the New York Times “it is futile and it won’t save any babies.” (Ohio didn’t let that stop them from trying, either.)
Since the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act” has little chance of surviving a court challenge — which the ACLU plans to get rolling before the law goes into effect — some may wonder what sort of sophisticated, rhetorical black magic it took on Rapert’s part to get fellow Arkansas legislators to swallow the bill. The Times illustrates:
“When is enough enough?” asked the bill’s sponsor in the legislature, Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican, who compared the more than 50 million abortions in the United States since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. “It’s time to take a stand.”
It sounds pretty dramatic but, on the contrary, the Times reports the “unemotional” final vote took the House less time than it had taken to recognize a college volleyball team. Several Democrats voted with the Republican majority and not a single legislator spoke against it.
According to a January NBC/WSJ poll, only 9 percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal without exception. Sometimes it feels like all of them are state legislators.