The law, which
takes effect later this year, prohibits dilation and evacuation,
a practice that pro-choice advocates say is the safest method of
ending a pregnancy but which supporters of the legislation call
"barbaric," requiring the "dismemberment" of the fetus.
Anti-abortion activists said the bill was their paramount
objective in the current legislative session. With conservative
Republicans controlling both chambers of the General Assembly,
the bill faced little opposition.
Near identical laws have been adopted in Mississippi and
Louisiana. Similar bans in Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama have
faced legal challenges and have yet to be implemented, according
to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion legislation.
Opponents of the Arkansas law vowed to fight it in the courts
and predicted it would fail.
"The law puts an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right
to obtain a second-trimester abortion, and I think the
legislature knows it and doesn’t care," said Rita Sklar, an
attorney for the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil
Hutchinson, a Republican, had said he believed the U.S. Supreme
Court could uphold the law if given the opportunity. He said
evolving medical standards of fetal viability could alter the
traditional definition of trimester.
The Arkansas health department has said that dilation and
extraction was used in 683 of the 3,771 abortions performed in
Arkansas in 2015, the most recent year for which it has records.
(Editing by Brendan O'Brien and Hugh Lawson)
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