Abortion advocates are now targeting Arkansas for an initiative. For the sake of the unborn, we must defeat it.
By Rose Mimms & Larry Page
In the wake of their stunning defeat at the Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision, abortion advocates have settled on a new strategy. With deep pockets and deceptive tactics, they are focusing on the state level, to which Dobbs rightly returned decision-making authority on abortion, to enshrine abortion on demand into law via popular referenda and initiatives. It has been a distressingly successful strategy, as pro-lifers have learned, most recently in Ohio.
They are targeting Arkansas next. If Arkansans haven’t heard about it already, they should be aware of a proposed state constitutional amendment, entitled the Arkansas Abortion Amendment, to legalize abortion throughout the entirety of pregnancy. The ballot-question committee Arkansans for Limited Government filed the initiative with the state’s attorney general. On Tuesday, the measure received the attorney general’s certification.
The ballot-question committee, its members, and sponsors must now gather the signatures of 91,000 registered voters on petitions to qualify the initiative for November’s general-election ballot. The Arkansas constitution provides for citizen-led grass-roots organizations to put before state voters constitutional amendments and acts or statutory enactments. Ballot-question committees must fulfill certain procedural requirements to accomplish that, including acquiring the requisite number of signatures.
If they succeed, and the initiative is then approved by a majority of the state’s voters this November, it will do away with all the hard-earned gains we have won in protecting the innocent and defenseless preborn in Arkansas.
To understand what that means, look at what Arkansans have achieved for the pro-life cause. After decades of struggle and intense efforts, we have managed to chip away at the illicit “right” to kill the precious unborn of our state. Today, our state’s laws impose a near-complete ban on abortion. The only exception is if abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother.
This amendment would threaten all that.
If it were to find its way into our state constitution, as it is currently drafted with several exceptions enumerated, it would allow virtually unrestricted abortion for all nine months of pregnancy. The drafters of the amendment sought to craft it in such a way that it would deceive voters into thinking that it was not such an extreme expansion of a restored right to abort a child. They attempted this bit of subterfuge by providing that abortion would be allowed up to 18 weeks after fertilization.
However, language was included in the amendment that would provide exceptions and allow abortions at any stage in the pregnancy “in cases of rape, in cases of incest, in the event of a fetal anomaly, or when, in a physicians good medical judgment, abortion services are needed to protect a female’s life or to protect a pregnant female from a physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury.”
What do the nebulous words “physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury” mean in the amendment, and what conditions might justify the performance of an abortion at any time — even up to the time of birth?
The amendment purports to define those terms as including “a life-endangering physical disorder, physical illness or physical injury caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself and any situation in which continuation of a pregnancy will create a serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function of a pregnant female.” Well, parsing this kind of legal jargon posing as precise medical terminology in the context of abortion laws renders a conclusion that those words can mean virtually anything an unscrupulous doctor construes them to mean. And nothing would prevent a nonexistent condition from being put forward to permit the abortion.
This so-called “moderate” abortion initiative is a stealthy attempt to allow virtually unrestricted abortion in Arkansas. Make no mistake about it, and don’t be misled by the group’s name: The Arkansans for Limited Government committee is a serious, no-nonsense group of committed zealots who are set on a course to make abortion a wide-open proposition in Arkansas. And, as mentioned above, they will be well-funded.
Groups like Arkansans for Limited Government have already greatly expanded access to abortion in seven states — California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Vermont, and, as mentioned above, Ohio. In all these states, pro-lifers opposing the efforts to increase abortion availability have been vastly outspent by the pro-abortion side, with funding coming from wealthy liberal groups and individuals, often from outside the states themselves.
As abortion advocates gear up for another round in Arkansas, we are marshaling every resource we can to protect the laws that defend unborn lives in our state.
We have begun to join with other pro-life groups to organize, raise awareness, and bring our grass-roots network into the loop. Support will be raised and proper messages will be crafted to give people reason and purpose in helping to protect the precious unborn who cannot speak for or defend themselves. They must count on us to do that for them. We must not fail them.
We have a difficult task ahead of us, and we will need all the help we can get. But together, we can make Arkansas the state that rejects abortion advocates’ deceptions, and that defends the culture of life our laws have enshrined. The unborn deserve nothing less.
Larry Page is the executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council. Rose Mimms is the executive director of Arkansas Right to Life. They are both part of Choose Life Arkansas, a consortium of Arkansas pro-life groups and individuals with the goal of defending unborn children and opposing efforts to expand abortion access in their state.