Earlier this week we wrote how Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review and uphold Arkansas’ Human Heartbeat Protection law, which prohibits most abortions after the twelfth week of pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Specifically, we have highlighted the fact that the A.G. has asked the court to review the so-called “viability rule” that restricts states from protecting unborn children early in pregnancy.

There is another component to the state’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court: In a roundabout way, the Attorney General’s petition asks the U.S. Supreme Court a question that sets the stage to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Here is how:

The Attorney General’s office asks the U.S. Supreme Court,

“Should the fact that a state’s safe haven statute eliminates a pregnant woman’s burden of parenthood, thereby removing a central concern of the Roe Court, have any bearing on the constitutional analysis of a law that restricts abortion prior to viability? . . . .

“[Arkansas provides] a safe haven statute that allows mothers to relinquish unwanted infants without consequence and thus removes the burden of unwanted parenthood and child care from pregnant women.”

The “safe haven statute” to which the A.G. refers is Act 236 of 2001 sponsored by then-Representative Gene Jeffress (D-Louann). The act allows a parent to turn over a newborn baby to police or medical personnel at a hospital within thirty days of the baby’s birth.

In essence, the law gives mothers or fathers a way to relinquish custody of a newborn without being charged with neglect or abuse and without endangering the child’s safety.

Many people understandably cringe at the thought of a parent simply abandoning a baby at a police station or hospital, but the reality is we have seen cases in which a parent abandons their child in a public park–or even a public restroom–in hopes someone will find the child and take care of it.

Laws like the Safe Haven Act give parents the ability to turn their children over to doctors or police; the parent is relieved of responsibility for the newborn without being charged with a crime, and the child is not put in any danger.

So what does that have to do with overturning Roe v. Wade?

One of the central arguments in Roe v. Wade was that women should not be forced to become parents if they don’t want to; they should have a choice.

What the A.G. is implying is this: In Arkansas, we don’t force anyone to be a parent; under our laws you can turn your newborn over to a doctor or to the police and put the child in state custody, no questions asked, if parenthood is not something you want.

In essence, because the Safe Haven Act makes it possible for someone to forego the “burden of parenthood,” the arguments in Roe v. Wade might be a moot point.

If a court were to decide that laws like the Safe Haven Act sufficiently prevent people from being forced to become parents against their will, it could set the stage to overturn Roe altogether–or, at the very least, give the state more flexibility in passing pro-life legislation.

Of course, as we said this week, overturning Roe v. Wade would not outlaw abortion nationwide. But it would put the issue of abortion back into the hands of the individual states, giving Arkansas more leeway to protect innocent human life.

This petition from Attorney General Rutledge’s office is a major step toward challenging the status quo on abortion, and she and her team ought to be commended for their work.

If you would like to thank A.G. Rutledge and her team, you can call their office at (501) 682-2007.