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This Week in the War on Women, Arkansas Edition

[ 120 ] February 1, 2013 |

The Arkansas State Senate is to consider an extreme anti-abortion measure, Senate Bill 134, which progressed out of committee by voice vote.

The state Senate’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor committee just approved a bill that restricts abortions in any case where a fetal heartbeat could be detected. For those not up on their gestational timeline, a heartbeat can be present as early as six weeks. That’s sooner than a great number of women even know they are pregnant, particularly in cases of unexpected pregnancies (you know, the people most likely to consider an abortion.) That’s sooner than most fetal abnormalities or conditions — the kind that could be inhumanely damaging or fatal to a baby carried to term — can be detected. Basically, it’s a laughably impractical cut-off point for abortions. It’s not supposed to be practical. On its feet, this law would effectively represent a complete ban of abortions in Arkansas.

Six weeks results in two nefarious outcomes.  One, in order to detect a fetal heartbeat that early in gestation requires an insultingly invasive procedure. As a bonus, if a heartbeat is detected, the woman loses control over her body. Second, it’s not uncommon to be unaware one is pregnant that early, resulting in “a near total ban”.

The sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, believes that such a restriction is consistent with Casey. My instinct disagrees, but in the nearly 21 years since Casey was decided the composition of federal courts has changed somewhat.  Even if challenged, the state Senator remains undaunted:

There was one time in this nation that it was legal to enslave African-Americans; it was constitutional. There was one time in this nation when women could not vote; it was constitutional. There’s a time when you have to stand up for what is right.

I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I doubt we would have found State Senator Rapert at the vanguard of either the Abolitionism or Suffragette movements.

….[Erik] The good Sen. Rapert is indeed an open racist as well.

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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    What’s next?
    A law requiring women to report to their nearest state health agency immediately after they have heterosexual intercourse, so that they can be kept under observation there until the government can prove that there’s no fetus growing in them?

    What’ll they call it, “Schtupp, Store, and Release?”

    What am I doing?

    Some idiot in some state legislature, or in our US Congress, will read what I wrote, and think it has real merit, and not just another lame gag!
    Thank goodness they don’t read LG&M!!!

  2. oldster says:

    “I doubt we would have found State Senator Rapert at the vanguard of either the Abolitionism or Suffragette movements”

    That’s my guess, too. But it really doesn’t matter. Even if the guy is as pure as the driven snow on race and the franchise, he is wrong and wronger about abortion.

    You know, part of the problem with abortion politics is that not every anti-abortion maniac is reliably monstrous on all causes. Sure, a lot of them tick all the boxes–racist, homophobic, christianist, creationist, denialist, etc. etc.

    But then you’ve got the a few otherwise decent people who think they get to control women’s bodies. Maybe not on every issue, but on this one. Some of them are even women themselves!

    I don’t know–I suppose I’m not really disagreeing with you. I just think that the reflex sentiment that anyone who is monstrous on abortion must be demonstrably unsound on race etc. is a species of self-consolation that is too often proved false.

    And it’s not needed: this guy isn’t wrong and hateful because he just said something racist. What he said (and advocated for), all on its own, is a sufficient grounds for condemnation.

    • dave brockington says:

      FWIW, I don’t assume that being wrong on issue X deterministically makes one wrong on issues Y and Z. If he hadn’t compared his “struggle” with the abolitionism or suffragette movements, I wouldn’t have written a word on it (or thought about it). But he did, which got me wondering about the probability of a white middle aged state politician from Arkansas supporting freeing the slaves between 1820 and 1860, or coming out in favour of the franchise for women between 1880 and 1920. I don’t know that number with any certainty, but it’s not large.

      A friend of mine is a Jesuit priest. One day a couple Christmases ago back home we had a few beers in a pub, and enjoyed a wide ranging discussion: theology, faith, politics . . . typical bar talk. Of course he’s wrong on abortion, and not just because it’s good for his career. He believes it. But in the aggregate, he’s not wrong about much, nor did I assume he was.

      • oldster says:

        Yeah, fair enough–he invited the comparison, it was not just a “reflex sentiment” on your part.

        I guess part of what I was reaching for is this idea: that we should start treating people who deny reproductive rights to women as ipso facto not decent people, without having to look for further evidence.

        I mean, we do not say of someone “he’s a virulent racist but an otherwise decent person”. (Maybe we’d say it of some historical figures, e.g. periods of Lincoln’s biography–maybe).
        We don’t say “he favors killing all the jews, but he’s an otherwise decent person.”

        Those positions are sufficient, all by themselves, to get you read out of the list of candidates for basic decency.

        But other parts of my comment actually undermined that very thought.

        On abortion rights, we still waffle and dither (or at least I did above). We are reluctant to take the step of saying: actively working to deny the reproductive rights of women makes you ipso facto an enemy of humanity, on a par with racists and anti-semites.

        So I guess my comment was also intended as the thought: let’s move from saying “he denies reproductive rights–he probably does even worse things, too, like racism!” to saying “he denies abortion rights–that’s as bad as racism.”

        But I also concede that my comment was off-base as a response to you, for the reasons you outline.

        • cpinva says:

          i could not possibly disagree with you more.

          “I guess part of what I was reaching for is this idea: that we should start treating people who deny reproductive rights to women as ipso facto not decent people, without having to look for further evidence.”

          by definition, it makes them not decent people. anyone who believes they have the right to decide, for an entire class of people, what they shall do with their bodies, absent some legal contractual agreement, immediately loses any moral standing they have, period.

        • R. Porrofatto says:

          What also makes these Koch-funded teratogenics “not decent people” is their desire to force women to give birth while almost never voting to, say, increase Medicaid funds for pre-natal care. It’s what makes their “pro-life” posturing even more cynical — their anti-abortion histrionics are purely to gain votes and money, or just to score points against liberals and women. Not to mention causing a lot of suffering.

        • thebewilderness says:

          We hear it all the time. He may be a mass murderer but he was such a good quiet neighbor and he loved his family so he can’t be all bad.
          It isn’t a balancing act where if you want to strip the civil rights from this group of people but not that group it all balances out and you are an OK d00d.
          If you want to strip the civil rights from any group of people you just failed at decent human being 101.

          • ExpatJK says:

            In the words of Jack Nicholson as the Joker:

            “Now you fellas have said some pretty mean things. Some of which *were* true under that fiend, Boss Grissom. He *was* a thief, and a terrorist. On the other hand he had a tremendous singing voice.”

  3. PattyP says:

    Maybe Savita Halappanavar’s kin could come have a word with him about the dangers of prohibiting abortion when there’s a fetal heartbeat.

  4. TT says:

    Does this mean that state and local police in Arkansas will be deployed en masse to investigate each and every miscarriage that occurs there? I mean, how can we really be sure that it was a “miscarriage” anyway? Take the woman at her word?! Ha!

  5. Scott P. says:

    Senator “Rapert”? Really? Even Dickens would find that name too insultingly obvious.

  6. John says:

    Doesn’t Arkansas still have a Democratic governor? Beebe seems to be a bit of a fence-straddler on abortion, but it seems unlikely he’d sign something like this.

    • cpinva says:

      don’t bet the rent money on it. beebe just only barely qualifies as a democrat. if he thinks it might get squashed by the courts later, thus saving him the embarassment of actually having to enforce it, he’ll sign the bill. gets/keeps a few fundie nutjob votes for him.

      • eukaryote says:

        Beebe is a democrat, in the sense that Romney was a republican (during his time in Massachusetts, before tacking right to get national votes). But he’s term-limited, and he has professed to have no future political plans.

        • dave brockington says:

          in my quick researching job on this, i came across an article (might be linked in the post) where the governor went on the record as not taking a position on this bill yet, but considering it blah blah. So he had a chance to go on the record flat out rejecting it, and didn’t.

    • delurking says:

      Arkansas Democrats are (in general) actually Republicans. There are complicated reasons for calling themselves Democrats, most of which escape me (I’ve only lived in the state 20 years now, off and on). It’s one of those codes, like Bless your heart. But everyone (on the Right) who votes for them knows they can expect them to do the right (uh, Right) thing.

      • John says:

        I don’t see how that’s really true. The two recent Democratic Senators from Arkansas (Pryor and Lincoln) have both been annoying, but neither is a Ben Nelson or Joe Manchin type. Arkansas Democrats are certainly more conservative than national Democrats, but the actual crazy right wing ones are Republicans now. And Beebe’s position on abortion seems to be comparable to Anthony Kennedy’s. If he hasn’t said he’ll veto yet, obviously that’s cause for concern, but why alienate anyone over a bill that may not get out of the legislature?

      • shah8 says:

        Seriously, guys, don’t default into national figures. State and local figures as per topic.

  7. LeeEsq says:

    I think that one of the few advantages of legalizing abortion through legislation rather than a court decision is that abortion through legislation would give a more concrete definition of what exactly is and isn’t allowed. This means it will be less likely to fall into this sort of wankery among abortion opponents.

  8. JL says:

    Also, it’s not uncommon for abortions to be more expensive before six weeks. I guess the fetus being so small makes it a little harder to do or something, but I don’t actually know. The abortion fund that I volunteer for doesn’t work with people who won’t be at least six weeks along by the time of the abortion unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. domestic violence), because it’s sometimes more expensive and they have plenty of time to find more money (we cannot afford to just pay the whole cost of everyone’s abortion). I think of 6-8 weeks as being “normal” – it’s where most of the people I talk to about abortion funding are.

    • Emma in Sydney says:

      It’s not even possible to have a surgical abortion before 8 weeks in Australia, despite it being legal. Doctors won’t do them because of the risk of missing such a tiny sac. I speak from experience– had to wait two weeks.

  9. DrDick says:

    Sadly, they are hardly alone in this. North Dakota is following a similar path.

  10. FLRealist says:

    My mother worked in nursing before Roe vs Wade, and while she personally was against abortion, she wholeheartedly approved of making abortion legal. Some of the stories she told me about her young patients and the horrible things they did/had done to them in order to self-abort is horrific.

    People trying to restrict or ban abortions are naive. Rich women will always have access to safe procedures (I remember one friend flying to Europe); poor women will seek out back alley practitioners or herbalists.

  11. Winchester says:

    Abortion is not morally neutral, nor is it contingent on the circumstances.

    Let’s say a poor woman who lives in an urban slum gets pregnant. She looks around and sees a terrible environment. She knows that her child will be raised fatherless. She knows that the odds of her child escaping the grasp of the gang-bangers and the socialist overlords are very slim. What should she do?

    If the mother aborts the baby, the baby can never go to Heaven, which is what God created the child for. In order to achieve Heaven, a person must be born and baptized, and die in a state of grace.

    No matter how long the odds seem, that baby is born with Heaven within grasp. That’s why abortion is EVIL: it deprives a human being of that chance; it’s MURDER.

  12. Tim says:

    Hello Dave! I’m confused by your voiced concern over an “insultingly invasive” way of finding the baby’s heartbeat when abortion is “insultingly invasive” to a baby’s body and life. You also said, the woman has now lost “control”over her body; I must ask you if she was in “control” of her body when she had the sexual relations to create this baby? I’m sorry, but again you have shown the hypocrisy of the “pro-choice” movement.

  13. The Golux says:

    One wonders if this clown added a “t” to the end of his real last name to make it more respectable.

  14. thebewilderness says:

    From the looks of it this bill makes ectopic pregnancies a death sentence. That will ratchet up the maternal mortality rate in the US once again.

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