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This is a historic day. In 1973, when I was a young law student at the University of Arkansas, Roe versus Wade came down from the United States Supreme Court establishing abortion as a constitutional right. Today, the court has reversed the original decision and said the decision was in error. There is no constitutional right, and the court returns the issue of abortion to the states.
For me, this is a turning point for our nation. Since Roe v. Wade was decided, the states that desired to protect unborn life have been prohibited from doing so. Personally, I am grateful for the court’s ruling today because I have fought a number of decades for greater protections of the unborn for my entire political life.
As Governor, I am gratified by the Court’s decision because the people of Arkansas have declared the public policy of this state is to protect the life of the unborn.
Let me make a couple of points:
This is not a nationwide ban. Justice Kavanaugh, in his concurring opinion, said, “To be clear, then, the Court’s decision today does not outlaw abortion throughout the United States. On the contrary, the Court’s decision properly leaves the question of abortion for the people and their elected representatives. …”
As a result of that comment and this ruling, what is the Arkansas response? Today, the Attorney General has indicated she will be presenting her certification necessary to trigger the Arkansas law that prohibits abortion except in the case of the life of the mother in a medical emergency.
Justice Alito, in the majority opinion, said, “We do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision overruling Roe and Casey.”
Well, we do know in Arkansas how we will respond, and the response is because the people have already spoken. As a result today, based upon the Attorney General’s certification, I’ll be directing the Arkansas Department of Health to enforce the law and to conduct the necessary inspections and notifications to assure that any abortion provider is in compliance with the law and understands the penalties that are provided therein.
Let me also emphasize this does not put at risk access to contraceptives or other issues that are tangentially related. As Justice Alito said: “But we have stated unequivocally that ‘[n]othing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.’ We have also explained why that is so: rights regarding contraception and same-sex relationships are inherently different from the right to abortion because the latter (as we have stressed) uniquely involves what Roe and Casey termed ‘potential life.’”
People need to understand that we are dealing with the issue of abortion today, and life. That is what is at stake.
I would also point out that the state regulation of abortions can still be challenged, but not based upon a constitutional right. This is an important principle. States can regulate. Courts can review. But there’s a presumption that the regulation is appropriate so long as there is a rational basis for that regulation.
Finally, I want to emphasize that we need as a state, as a nation, to continue to support women who have unwanted pregnancies, and for some, they see abortion as the only solution. That is the reason the legislature anticipated, perhaps, this moment, or simply anticipated the need, provided $1 million to pregnancy centers across the state of Arkansas. They also enacted the Every Mom Matters Act that will allow those with pregnancies and questions to call and get information, to get assistance, to get help. That is being funded through our Department of Health. This was all before this decision today was rendered, but it reemphasized the importance of what we have done, the steps that have been taken, and the need to continue to support women as they go through what could be a traumatic time in their life. I understand this will continue to be debated and protested across our country. Well, that is the heart of our democracy, and ultimately, the people, through their representatives, will guide the solutions and the answers that each state will present in reference to this issue.