Arkansas Legislature Approves Bill for ‘Monument to the Unborn’

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The Arkansas Legislature sent a bill to the desk of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders that would authorize a “monument to the unborn” on the grounds of the state Capitol.

The Republican-led state House approved Senate Bill 307, known as the “Monument to Unborn Children Act,” by a vote of 60–19 on March 14. The monument would mark the number of abortions performed in Arkansas before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

The memorial would be built to “remember those children we were not able to protect, and we will not be able to forget,” said Republican state Rep. Mary Bentley, the bill’s House sponsor.

In Arkansas, abortions are illegal except in a medical emergency to save the mother’s life. The state’s 2019 “trigger law” banning abortion took effect last year when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing for abortion laws to be decided at the state level.

“From 1973 until 2022, Arkansas was prevented from protecting the life of unborn children by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court,” the bill reads, adding that during this period, approximately 236,243 elective abortions were performed in the state.

The memorial would be privately funded through the “Monument to Unborn Children Display Fund.”

The Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission would oversee the selection of the artist and design of the monument with input from pro-life groups. The secretary of state would have final approval of the selections.

Once approved, the secretary of state would arrange the construction, placement, and dedication of the monument.

Sanders has not yet commented on the bill, but she is an outspoken supporter of the pro-life movement.

National Right to Life and the Arkansas Right to Life PAC endorsed Sanders during the 2022 gubernatorial election, and she wrote the foreward to the 2020 book “Life is Winning” by Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (formerly Susan B. Anthony List).

Some Republicans Against the Proposal

Republican Reps. Steve Unger and Jeremiah Moore voted against the measure, saying the legislation would cause more harm than good.

“Public memorials to our nation’s wars where we face an external threat are right and proper,” Unger said. “A memorial to an ongoing culture war where we seem to be shooting at each other is not.”

Moore said he believes the monument “will serve as a poke in the eye to all those who don’t share our beliefs.”

“It will only be used as a weapon to rally against pro-life values through fundraising and stirring up anger and vitriol,” Moore continued.

Republican Rep. Cindy Crawford likened the monument to remembering slavery in America so that it never happens again.

“We have to remember slavery in America so it won’t come back. We have to remember abortion in Arkansas so it won’t come back,” she said. “There’s no reason why we can’t have a monument. It’s not a poke in the eye; it’s a ‘God forgive us for what we have done.’”

Ten Republicans and one Democrat voted “present” on the bill.

Democrats argued that the monument would politicize the Capitol grounds rather than unite people.

“This is injecting a contentious political issue to the grounds of the state Capitol, and it’s doing so in a way that I can imagine is going to be painful for a lot of women who have gotten abortions in the last 50 years,” Democrat Sen. Clarke Tucker said earlier in March.

In 2018, Tennessee lawmakers approved a privately funded monument to the unborn to be placed on the Capitol grounds. The monument has not yet been installed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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