A bill to restrict a common form of second trimester abortions in Arkansas is now law. Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the measure banning a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). According to the state Department of Health, it was the only procedure used for 18% of abortions performed in the 12th week of pregnancy or later in 2015.
The Republican governor signed the measure on Thursday after the state Senate, in a 25-to-6 vote, voted to ban the procedure. Senator David Sanders, a Little Rock Republican, carried the bill in the upper chamber. He said it was about making abortion more humane.
“This will outlaw what is a gruesome procedure in terms of how abortion is applied currently in the state,” said Sanders.
During his floor remarks, Sanders went on to cite examples of several developed Western nations that restrict this particular procedure as a way to carry out second trimester abortions. The senator, a former journalist, said he experienced “agony” while witnessing an abortion for an article. He said that feeling helped compel him to end the D&E procedure.
Sanders, a familiar and established face in the Senate, faced a barrage of questions from Little Rock Democrats.
Sen. Joyce Elliott said if Sanders felt agony while witnessing an abortion, he should imagine the agony of the mother and family involved. “You’re disrespecting their agony to get between them and their doctor,” she said. She also suggested Sanders only found the procedure “stomach turning” because he doesn’t regularly participate in medical procedures. Elliott said brain surgery might appear gross to him, too.
Sen. Linda Chesterfield asked Sanders how many women have lost their lives as a result of the procedure.
Sanders said he didn’t know the answer to that but emphasized he believes two lives are at stake, “There are two lives here. Two. Two lives not just the mother but also the child.”
Chesterfield pointed out the legislation doesn’t have exceptions common to many abortion restrictions. Fellow Little Rock Democrat Will Bond followed up on her question with remarks on the floor.
“This bill does not include any exception for rape or incest,” Bond repeated his concern, “There aren’t any exceptions for rape or incest.”
It does have an exception for the health of the mother, but Bond characterized that as too narrowly defined.
The measure passed comfortably 25 to 6 with bi-partisan support. Three of the Senate’s nine Democrats, all form south Arkansas, voted for the measure: Bruce Maloch of Magnolia, Eddie Cheatham of Crossett and Larry Teague of Nashville.
Several other states have bans currently entangled in court proceedings. Planned Parenthood representatives have pledged to support “any and all” efforts to fight back against the restriction on abortion rights. The ban would go into effect 90 days after the legislative session ends.