Arkansas & Utah Pass 18-Week Abortion Bans, Chipping Away At Access

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Two states are poised to further restrict abortion access after state lawmakers passed measures that prohibit abortion at 18 weeks into a pregnancy. Arkansas and Utah's abortion bans were each sent to the governor's desk on Wednesday and could both become law very soon.

Abortion in Arkansas is already banned at 20 weeks, and the state passed a "trigger" ban in February that would automatically outlaw abortion if the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade. The state tried to ban abortion at 12 weeks back in 2013, but the law was eventually struck down in federal court.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has expressed his support for the latest ban — which includes exceptions for rape, incest, and medical emergencies — and his office confirmed to Bustle that he plans to sign it into law.

“It’s within the second trimester that states are allowed to pass restrictions on, and this, with the science we have today it seems like a very appropriate restriction,” Hutchinson said just before the latest measure passed a state House vote, per the Associated Press.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already vowed to challenge the 18-week ban in court, writing in a Wednesday tweet that it's unconstitutional.

Utah's 18-week ban closely resembles that of Arkansas, except for the fact that it includes an exception for fatal fetal defects. Anyone seeking an abortion in the state is already required to undergo state-directed counseling, and then wait 72 hours before having the procedure.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert hasn't specifically commented on the 18-week ban, but his track record suggests that he'll support the measure. Bustle has reached out to Herbert's office for comment on whether he plans to sign the 18-week ban.

A separate bill seeking to ban abortion if a person wants to terminate a pregnancy because the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome was also sent to Herbert's desk recently. That measure contains a "trigger clause," which means it would only go into effect if a similar law was upheld in court in another state, according to the Associated Press. Herbert has said that proposed law is “somewhat of a message bill,” meant to tell Utah residents that getting an abortion due to a Down syndrome diagnosis is "probably not a good reason," per the AP.

The ACLU of Utah spoke out against the 18-week ban in a Wednesday press release, saying the nonprofit "believes that laws banning abortion prior to viability, like HB136, are in clear violation of a woman’s constitutionally protected right to an abortion," adding that "the courts agree." The ACLU plans to sue the state over the ban, along with other local organizations, if it's signed into law.

Both states will likely be caught up in costly lawsuits for years to come over Republican lawmakers' efforts to limit second-trimester abortions.

“Arkansas already has some of the most extreme anti-abortion restrictions in the country, as well as some of the nation’s highest rates of teen pregnancy and maternal mortality,” Gloria Pedro, Arkansas lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement to the AP. “Instead of continuing to attack access to safe, legal abortion, lawmakers should focus on improving Arkansans’ health.”