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Arkansas boldly steps out to snatch a victory for life from the jaws of Roe v. Wade.
Arkansas last week passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, overriding the governor’s veto. The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act1 takes the exact language of the Roe v. Wade decision and uses it to protect fetuses after the first trimester.
“We have chosen here to utilize language from Roe v. Wade that says the states have an interest in protecting human lives, especially fetuses at approximately the end of the first trimester and the beginning of the second trimester,” according to Arkansas state Senator Jason Rapert. Arkansas’s governor vetoed the bill, saying that defending it in court would be costly. But the legislature overrode the veto, and the law should go into effect later this year.
While an unborn child is as human in the second trimester as in the first, the language of Roe v. Wade does not allow for restrictions earlier than 12 weeks. “We believe that because we put it at 12 weeks it will survive a court challenge - we are setting it at the end of the first trimester,” explains Arkansas state Representative Ann Clemmer. Arkansas law already “declares a 12-week-old baby in utero to be a person and we have prosecuted individuals who have hurt babies in utero,” Representative Clemmer adds, so the new law is consistent with existing legislation.
The law will require that women seeking abortion at 12 weeks or later to have an abdominal ultrasound.
The law will require that women seeking abortion at 12 weeks or later to have an abdominal ultrasound. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the abortion will not be permitted, Senator Rapert explains, except in cases of “rape, incest, to save the life of the mother and to prevent irreparable harm to the mother's health, in addition to giving an exception for fatal fetal anomalies.”3
Penalties for violation will include jail and fines for doctors who abort babies in defiance of the law’s provisions but no penalties for the mothers.4
Not surprisingly, pro-abortion activists vow to challenge the law in court. Arkansas ACLU executive director Rita Sklar says, “We will fight this law in court to ensure that politicians cannot deny women the ability to make their own decisions about their own health.” Even though the new law is completely consistent with the letter of the United States Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, ACLU deputy legal director Louise Melling claims, “The bill is clearly unconstitutional, clearly inconsistent with Supreme Court precedent” and plans to file a legal challenge before the law takes effect later this year.5
Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, a non-profit defender of religious freedom, the family, and sanctity of life, says, “What Arkansas is doing is neither radical nor unconstitutional.”6 In contrast to the claims in the Roe v. Wade decision, ranking a presumed right to privacy above the law’s duty to protect human life, in other areas of the law the unborn child’s rights are protected. Staver says, “In personal injury, criminal, and wills and estate law, the law has continued to recognize the unborn child as a human with legal protections, not merely a ‘potential’ human being.”7
Roe v. Wade created an unnatural distinction between the unborn in each trimester. Most laws in the country have used the subtleties of the decision’s language to liberalize access to abortion, permitting it for almost any reason whatever. This law takes the refreshing approach of using the language to protect at least some of the unborn.
I know that the eyes of the nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today, and what you see happening is that people are waking up.
Other states have attempted to pass similar laws but failed. Senator Rapert says, “I know that the eyes of the nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today, and what you see happening is that people are waking up.” Given the mind-boggling number of babies killed by abortion in America since 1973, he says, “We have had a very irrational policy on abortion in our nation. . . . I am asking us to have a conscience and to wake up to this issue, and I believe this [law] is a great step in that direction.”
Will this country, now habituated to accept the legalized murder of the unborn, continue the trend of wanton disregard for human life created in the image of God? Or could this law possibly be the first substantial victory against the forces gathered against the unborn for so many decades? While this law takes effect and is subjected to court challenges, we should pray for a fundamental shift in judges, lawmakers, and the people of this country toward the acceptance of the sanctity of human life on a biblical basis. A biblical foundation is the key to an enduring change.
Human beings did not evolve through natural processes but were created in the image of our Creator, the one true God who loves each of us enough to give His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place (John 3:16). We are not animals, not even highly evolved ones. Because of this biblical truth, we know that the unborn should be protected at all stages of life.
Our hats are off to the tireless legislators in Arkansas who worked to craft this law in language consistent with the law of our land and who then worked to shepherd it through the legal process.
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