On Tuesday night, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a measure that would automatically make abortion illegal in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to choose, is overturned. The move makes Arkansas the fifth state with a "trigger law" on the books, after Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Earlier this month, Tennessee lawmakers also introduced a trigger ban, although it hasn't passed yet.
Access to abortion care is already highly restricted in Arkansas. The state bans abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, has a mandatory 48-hour waiting period, requires people under the age of 18 to obtain parental consent before obtaining care, among other restrictions. Arkansas also only has one abortion provider offering services for the whole state — just like Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
"This puts the threat to reproductive freedom — and by proxy, fundamental equality for women — into real, clear focus. The goal of the anti-choice movement is to ban abortion outright, period," Amanda Thayer, deputy national communications director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Refinery29. "They're now one step closer to doing that in one more state, where access is already quite dire to begin with. This is not a drill, and it's never been more important to fight for reproductive rights at the state level."
The possibility that Roe v. Wade gets overturned is not far-fetched. Conservative state legislatures are continuing to introduce or pass anti-choice legislation — from abortion bans to the targeted regulation of abortion providers, also known as TRAP laws — with the hopes of bringing on the legal challenge that can help make abortion illegal in the United States once again. They feel newly emboldened by the support the current administration, including both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, has shown for the anti-abortion cause. They've also seized on the new balance of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has veered to the right with the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who once argued Roe is not settled law and recently issued a dissent that made it clear he is declaring war on the landmark decision.
This story was originally published at 10:30 a.m. It has since been updated.