Moving the Goal Posts Again on Abortion

Arkansas is making news for more than the deal Gov. Mike Beebe has cut with the feds to enable expansion of Medicaid via health care exchanges. Earlier this week Beebe vetoed a bill making his state the tenth to enact a so-called “fetal pain” bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That veto has already been overridden under Arkansas unusual rules allowing that to occur under a simple legislative majority (two House Democrats voted for the override; otherwise this was a strict partly-line vote).

So now Arkansas Republicans are sending Beebe a new bill that would set a new national landmark for patently-unconstitutional abortion restrictions, banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, which is supposedly about the time a fetal heartbeat can be detected. He’ll soon veto it again, and then the only question is how determined GOP legislators are to defy court precedents in a way sure to revive memories of the state’s unsavory history of defying Brown v. Board of Education and keep Arkansas in the competition with Mississippi as “most reactionary state” (though Kansas is giving both a run for their money).

While this ploy is obviously aimed at “moving the goalposts” yet again on the anti-choice movements demands for “compromise” abortion bans (already moved a long way since the “partial-birth abortion” bans of the 1990s), it’s unclear if they are trying to engineer the sharpest possible court challenge to Roe v. Wade, in hopes that the ever-wavering Justice Anthony Kennedy will award them the victory they have so long sought before the president gets another Supreme Court nomination. But by ratcheting up their restrictions, they may soon make another high-court confrontation unavoidable.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.