"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 have recognized I believe are very appropriate," Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" when asked why a young girl impregnated by a family member should be forced to carry that child to term.
"And what will happen as time goes on, if Roe v. Wade is reversed, these are going to become very real circumstances. I think the debate and discussion will be -- will continue and that very well could be revisited," he said, adding later: "I believe that those exceptions are going to be important ... overall to save lives because the public understands those exceptions, the importance of it. So I think that will be revisited."
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Hutchinson's comments come as the debate around abortion access has intensified following the leak earlier this month of a draft US Supreme Court opinion authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito that showed the high court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. A number of Republican-led states have been pushing strict abortion measures this year in anticipation of Roe's potential reversal, including Oklahoma, where lawmakers last week sent their GOP governor a bill that would ban abortions from the stage of "fertilization" and would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers who "knowingly" perform or induce an abortion "on a pregnant woman."
Signed in March 2021 by Hutchinson, Arkansas' abortion ban would go into effect if Roe is reversed.
The law would ban providers from performing abortions "except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency" and makes no exceptions for instances of rape, incest or fetal anomalies. Those found to violate the law could face fines of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
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The governor has been blunt about the law's goal of overhauling abortion rights. He told CNN last year: "I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade."
The law was temporarily blocked last year by a federal judge after the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups sued the state.
Arkansas Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the ban, denounced rape and incest last year but stood by the law's lack of exceptions for the two crimes, saying, "How could we look at any human baby and say that they are not worthy of life simply because their birth was a result of a violent act."
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Arkansas already has several abortion restrictions in effect. Abortion seekers must receive an in-person warning from their providers 72 hours beforehand, including information on prenatal and neonatal care and child support services, to access the procedure. Abortions after 20 weeks are already banned in the state except in instances of rape, incest or life-threatening or other serious physical endangerment to the pregnant woman.
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