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Arkansas GOP governor says abortion ban he signed could be ‘revisited’

Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Sunday that a pro-life law he signed banning abortions in almost all circumstances “could be revisited” to add exemptions for rape and incest, should it go into effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

“While it’s still life in the womb, life of the unborn, the conception was under criminal circumstances, either incest or rape. And so, those are two exceptions I have recognized I believe are very appropriate,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, when host Dana Bash pressed him on why a hypothetical 12-year-old raped by a family member should have to carry her baby to term.

“And what will happen as time goes on, if Roe v. Wade is reversed, these are going to become very real circumstances. I think the debate and discussion will be — will continue and that very well could be revisited,” he said.

“Whenever you see real-life circumstances like that, that debate is going to continue. And the will of the people may or may not change. But it’s going to come back to the states’ flexibility on that. I believe that those exceptions are going to be important in overall to save lives, because the public understands those exceptions, the importance of it,” he added later.

Hutchinson’s remarks come as the nation awaits an official ruling from the Supreme Court on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. A leaked draft majority opinion published by Politico earlier this month indicated the court has voted to overturn its landmark decision in Roe, which created constitutional protections for abortion and limited the ability of states to pass pro-life laws restricting abortion.

In the event that Roe is overturned, Arkansas is one of 26 states that have so-called trigger laws which will immediately go into effect. The Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act, which Hutchinson signed in March 2021, bans all abortions in the state with the lone exception of a procedure to save the life of the mother. When he signed the law, Hutchinson said the “whole design” of it was to inspire a direct challenge to Supreme Court precedent on abortion.

Now that the goal of overturning Roe is within reach, the governor has backtracked and expressed support for more exceptions permitting abortions.

This would not be the first time Hutchinson has signed a law enthusiastically supported by Republican lawmakers in his state and then expressed regret or reservations about it after the fact.

In August 2021, Hutchinson said that he made a mistake by signing a bill that banned state and local government authorities from implementing mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.