Senator Jason Rapert calls Texas abortion law ‘awesome’; says Arkansas could follow suit
Anti-abortion activists' fear that GOP-controlled states could follow Texas appears to be coming true. Arkansas could become the next state to adopt a similar law, according to State Senator Jason Rapert. The Republican announced his intention to introduce the Arkansas Heartbeat Protection Act on October 25 during a special legislative session. Like Texas, it is expected to outlaw abortion after six weeks and empower citizens to sue those violating the bill.
As we have extensively covered, Texas' controversial bill has become the subject of much debate not just in Texas, but all over the US. In early October, Pennsylvania State Representative Chris Rabb mockingly announced new legislation targeting men, directly in opposition to Texas' SB 8. Even the Salem Satanic Temple got involved, filing a letter with the FDA saying its members should be able to access pills in the state.
Despite very public opposition, including from the federal government, the Republican Party is keen to go ahead and outlaw abortion wherever possible. In fact, the Mississippi AG filed a brief in the Supreme Court in July to completely overturn Roe v Wade. While those arguments are still being heard, several states are going ahead anyway, such as Arkansas.
'What Texas has done is absolutely awesome'
Sen. Rapert made no effort to conceal his excitement over SB 8 in Texas, telling reporters, "what Texas has done is absolutely awesome." He's also keen to introduce similar legislation in his own state, after having sponsored numerous anti-abortion bills and laws during his time in government. In fact, earlier this year, he also sponsored a bill to outlaw abortion completely, unless it is done to save the mother's life.
He hasn't been shy about promoting his anti-abortion views either. In a tweet on October 19, Rapert said, "Arkansas was recently named the most ProLife state in the nation. It should be easy to pass the Texas-style heartbeat bill in our upcoming Special Session." Previously, he also said in another interview, "If I had my way I’d go board up the abortion clinic in west Little Rock this weekend and be done with it because that’s what the people of Arkansas want."
But it may not be as easy as he thinks. The CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains told Huffington Post, "We are taking this very, very seriously." But given the success of Texas' bill, it may be hard for activists to get their way. That is despite a lack of support amidst the general public for a Texas-style law. A recent poll noted that 50% of respondents didn't want a copycat bill in Arkansas, while 47% supported it.
'Pretty close' to Texas SB 8
The bill in Arkansas is expected to be pretty close to that of Texas, according to Rapert. He is yet to formally release a draft or text but has dropped some hints about how it would work in a state that already has extremely tight restrictions on abortion. Rapert's bill would have a "civil cause of action", allowing private citizens to sue those who violate the bill. It will also likely outlaw abortion after six weeks, a time when most people don't even know that they are pregnant.
Currently, there are only 2 abortion clinics in the entire state, with 77% of women living in counties without access to them. Beyond that, Arkansas has passed over 20 abortion restrictions in its most recent legislative session. But Arkansas isn't the only state to copy Texas. In September, Florida state Rep. Webster Barnaby introduced H.B. 167, which mirrors SB 8 almost word-for-word. But activists are reportedly less worried about that bill becoming law, given that similar efforts have failed to pass over the past several years. However, that's not the situation in Arkansas, which is widely considered one of the worst states for abortion rights after Alabama.