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Arkansas Passes Near-Total Abortion Ban — And A Possible 'Roe V. Wade' Test

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday signed into law one of the country's most restrictive abortion bans, a measure supporters hope will force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its 1973 decision sanctioning the procedure.

Under Senate Bill 6, abortion would only be allowed in cases where it's necessary to save the life or preserve the health of the fetus or mother. The law does not allow any exceptions in situations of rape or incest — a line that anti-abortion-rights activists and lawmakers have supported in the past.

Performing or attempting to perform an abortion is considered an unclassified felony under the measure. Anyone convicted under the law could face a fine up to $100,000 or a prison sentence.

The measure's supporters expect the law to be challenged by abortion-rights activists. Its future is uncertain. Similar attempts to restrict access to abortion services in Ohio, Georgia and Alabama in the past two years have failed after federal courts struck down local laws.

But that's no matter, according to Hutchinson. He said Tuesday that the goal of the legislation is to bring the fight over abortion to the Supreme Court.

"SB6 is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law," Hutchinson said in a statement. "I would have preferred the legislation to include the exceptions for rape and incest, which has been my consistent view, and such exceptions would increase the chances for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Republican lawmakers across the country have been emboldened by last year's confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Lawmakers in Texas and Tennessee have also pushed new abortion restrictions believing a conservative majority at the nation's highest court will strike down the landmark abortion decision, Roe v. Wade.

But abortion-rights activists are keen for a court fight as well.

Holly Dickson, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said, "Abortion is legal in all 50 states, including Arkansas, and we'll fight as long as it takes to keep it that way. Governor Hutchinson: We'll see you in court."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.