What does it mean for Montana?
The Arkansas legislature has voted to outlaw abortion wherever a fetus’s heartbeat can be detected, which is usualy around 12 weeks. The governor of Arkansas, Mike Beebee, a Democrat, had vetoed the bill. But the Arkansas legislature overrode the veto.
To give you an idea of what Arkansas politics are like, not a single state senator, Republican or Democrat, spoke against the bill on the day the governor’s veto was debated on the senate floor.
Unquestionably unconstitutional (federal law protects a woman’s right to make choices about her pregnancy during the first 24 weeks), this new Arkansas statute will now be challenged in federal court and will likely be struck down by either a federal district court, an appeals court, or, if necessary, the Supreme Court.
Even James Bopp, the arch-conservative lawyer who won the Citizens United case (where the Supreme Court ruled that “corporations are people” for purposes of making campaign donations), has said publicly that this Arkansas law will fail in the federal courts. He opposed the law, in fact. And Bopp is general counsel for National Right to Life.
Bopp’s opposition is reflective of a larger rift between hard core abortion rights warriors in one camp, and “incrementalists”–the Catholic Church and National right to Life– in the other camp. The latter two groups have followed a strategy of chipping away slowly at abortion rights by trying to limit funding, trying to restrict abortions provided or funded by state government or federal government or the US military, trying to require doctors to show patients photos and ultrasounds, and so on.
But the militants behind the Arkansas law, and behind many other pieces of legislation now making their way through the statehouses of conservative states, are no longer willing to wait for the ultimate prize they have long had their eyes on–an outright ban on abortion. They are tired of the incremental measures. They “want it now,” as the young brat Veruca sang in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
But the incrementalists are more dangerous in my view. They support laws which are more likely to be upheld, and have an immediate and definite impact on the ability of women, predominantly poor women, to make choices about pregnancy.
And what of the Montana legislature?
This session, Republicans are putting forth a strong volley of anti-choice bills. The have proposed unconstitutional laws which would treat the death of a fetus as homicide HB 104, and HB 391 to require young women to get parental consent. And they have introduced legislative referenda to bring these issues to a vote of the populace, by ballot measure when Governor Bullock vetos the bills. And a large portion of Republican legislators–perhaps even a majority of them–believes that rape victims who are impregnated by their assailants should be required to give birth.
HB 239 which would restrict medically accurate sex ed in public schools. Here is HB 423, the legislative referenda which would allow the same idiocy, which the legislature’s own attorneys say is unconstitutional. Here is the unconstitutional legislative referenda which would require young women who are raped by their fathers to get the rapists permission before having an abortion HB 521.
So keep watch, and remember that this battle waged by fanatics is never won or lost, but rages on.