Rapert expects other states to adopt his fetal heartbeat law


WASHINGTON — The architect of the most restrictive abortion law in the nation expects other states will soon follow Arkansas’ lead.

“People are reaching out from all across the nation,” said state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway. “I think it will show up in state legislatures around the country.”

Rapert has been flooded by telephone calls and emails since the Arkansas Legislature voted this week to override Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of his bill.

Beyond press inquiries — including a New York Times reporter who flew to Little Rock for an interview — Rapert said most people are offering their support.

Rapert was in Washington on an unrelated matter. He was attending a meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators.

Rapert has also gotten his share of disparaging calls and threats from opponents of the law, which bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The key provision of the law, he said, is in establishing that a fetus is viable when a heartbeat can be detected. Abortions would be prohibited beyond that point with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.

The American Civil Liberties Union called it the most restrictive abortion law in the nation and has vowed to mount a constitutional challenge.

A U.S. District judge in Idaho this week struck down that state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

Rapert expects a legal challenge but believes a compelling case can be made to uphold the fetal heartbeat law. He’s also received a commitment from the nonprofit Liberty Counsel to argue the case for free.

The Arkansas law, he said, is different from Idaho and has been crafted to avoid many of the contentious points raised against previous anti-abortion efforts.

“We ceded all the areas of contention over rape, incest and life of the mother. There were also amendments for medical emergencies and fetal anomalies,” Rapert said.

Arkansas’ congressional delegation has largely steered away from the abortion battle in Little Rock. Asked for their thoughts, most declined to offer any beyond reiterating their position as pro-life.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., was the exception, offering that he is “ready to stand in support of this law as it will likely face legal challenges.

“I’m committed to pro-life initiatives and I’m pleased to see the support of Arkansas legislators who are working to protect the lives of the unborn. We need to create an environment that promotes an appreciation for family and all human life,” Boozman said. “The work coming out of our state capitol is an energizing reminder to continue the fight to protect the sanctity of life.”

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Little Rock, issued a statement saying he is “a pro-life Member of Congress who believes, like most Arkansans, that every life is sacred and must be protected.”

Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said that he supports “all efforts to protect the unborn. We cannot live in a society where some human life is valued and other life is not.”

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, declined to issue any statement on the Arkansas law.

“We’ve been focused on what’s going on in the U.S. Senate,” said Michael Teague, a spokesman Mark Pryor.

“He doesn’t have a comment,” said Caroline Rabbitt, a spokeswoman for Cotton.

“Congressman Womack believes that life begins at conception and supports policies that protect life and human dignity,” said his press secretary Clair Burghoff. “However, we’re not going to get involved in the state’s issues.”

Rapert was unconcerned by the lack of comment from his counterparts in D.C., saying he has not spoken to any of them about the bill.

“We try not to bother them either,” he said.