Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law Tuesday a near-total ban on abortion in the state, despite simultaneously acknowledging the ban is not actually lawful by current American legal standards. Huh? The state’s Senate Bill 6 bans women from having an abortion under any circumstance—including rape and incest—other than in a “medical emergency” where the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. Hutchinson said in a signing statement that he disagreed with portions of the bill and that it directly contradicts current U.S. law, but he signed away anyway in the latest Republican instance of performative governance.
The law doesn’t go into effect for 90 days after the close of the state legislative term, and everyone involved knows it will surely be halted by a federal judge because, as Hutchinson expressly stated, the law is against the law. “(The ban) is in contradiction of binding precedents of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it is the intent of the legislation to set the stage for the Supreme Court overturning current case law,” Hutchinson said in a signing statement. “I would have preferred the legislation to include the exceptions for rape and incest, which has been my consistent view, and such exceptions would increase the chances for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
That’s a pretty cavalier attitude about the actual laws of the United States from a governor of one of its states, particularly one from a party that prides itself on extreme, biblical reverence for “law and order.” But knowingly passing laws that don’t comport with the actual legal system of the U.S. isn’t just a quirk of a renegade state or state party—it’s the actual legislative strategy of the Republican Party. As CNN points out, “Of the 11 so-called gestational bans—which bar abortions past a certain point in pregnancy—passed since the start of 2019, none have gone into effect after most of them have been blocked by judges.”
The endgame is, of course, threading the needle to have the case heard by the Supreme Court, which is now fully stocked with Trump appointees and listing hard to the right. In fact, Hutchinson already has a performative ban on the books: His 2019 law that bans an abortion after 18 weeks is one of the near dozen by GOP lawmakers that have been put on hold by the courts. What makes the latest effort even more ridiculous is that it won’t ever see the light of day at the Supreme Court and Arkansas Republicans know it.
“As the Legislature considered the measure, Hutchinson shared with lawmakers a letter written by an attorney for abortion opponents National Right to Life that said the chances of the bill leading to Roe being overturned were ‘very small and remote,’” the Associated Press notes. “National Right to Life didn’t take a position on the bill, though its Arkansas affiliate supported the ban.”
So it’s literally just a (corrosive) performance piece cooked up by Republicans in state government? The answer is: Yes.