A common second-trimester abortion procedure will no longer be available in Arkansas, after the state's Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a law on Jan. 26 that is expected to face subsequent court battles.
The measure to ban the abortion method, known as dilation and evacuation, won approval from the Republican-dominated state Senate with a 25 to 6 vote just hours before Hutchinson provided the final step to implement it, notes The Associated Press. The Arkansas House of Representatives voted similarly along party lines.
The new law is scheduled to take effect later in 2017.
Dilation and evacuation is a procedure that abortion providers commonly use during the second trimester (second 12 weeks) of pregnancy. It involves opening the cervix and removing the fetus and other tissue from the uterus using suction devices and manual instruments, according to WebMD. Pro-choice activists say that it is the safest and most convenient method for terminating second-trimester pregnancies, but some pro-life advocates say that it is barbaric.
"I think this is a humane bill," said Republican State Sen. David Sanders, who co-sponsored the bill, according to the AP. "I think it does move us to a more compassionate society."
Opponents of the measure called it a needlessly wasteful move that could cost the state massive amounts of money in the event that it leads to lengthy battles in court.
"It's as if we want to practice medicine, and if we do, I think we should all go to medical school and become doctors," said Democratic State Sen. Joyce Elliott after voting against the bill. "Saying we're going to outlaw something because we disagree with the procedure, that is a medical procedure, is something we just can't get seem to our heads around."
Mississippi and West Virginia have implemented similar bans on the abortion procedure, as have Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, though the laws in those four states are suspended in light of ongoing legal challenges.