Twenty-nine years ago the Committee for Reproductive Choices launched a petition drive to place a pro-abortion amendment on the ballot in Arkansas.
The amendment would have made abortion a constitutional right and, in the words of one attorney, “straight-jacket” Arkansas into the most extreme abortion policy in the nation, at the time.
The amendment’s supporters included the ACLU and Advocates for Reproductive Information and Support (ARIS).
The pro-abortion amendment’s text read,
AN AMENDMENT PREVENTING STATE INTERVENTION IN REPRODUCTIVE CHOICES
Section 1. The State shall not intervene in any woman’s personal reproductive decisions, including but not limited to, the right to choose to become pregnant, to carry a pregnancy to term and to bear a child or to prevent pregnancy or to terminate her pregnancy through abortion by a licensed medical doctor through the twentyfourth (24th) week of pregnancy. The state shall not intervene in a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy to protect her life or health.
Section 2. Nothing in this provision shall restrict a person’s religious freedom.
The amendment effectively would have written the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton abortion decisions into the Arkansas Constitution.
In Roe the court ruled states had little power to restrict abortion during the first and second trimesters.
In Doe the court ruled states could not prohibit abortions deemed necessary to save the life or protect the health of the mother.
Both of these rulings were changed in 1992, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision that dismantled Roe‘s trimester framework and ruled states could regulate abortion as a medical procedure.
Thankfully, this pro-abortion amendment from 1990 never took root in Arkansas.
However, it serves as a reminder of how far Arkansas has come in the fight to protect unborn children.