December 9, 2014 — The Arkansas State Medical Board on Thursday voted 7-6 to approve portions of a partially overturned state law (Act 301) that will require physicians to perform ultrasounds on women before an abortion, AP/THV11 reports (AP/THV11, 12/5).
The law prohibits abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, to save a woman's life or when the fetus has a fatal disorder (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29). It also requires physicians to tell women the likelihood the fetus has of surviving if it is carried to full term (AP/THV11, 12/5).
A federal judge overturned part of the law earlier this year, ruling that restricting abortion based on fetal heartbeat rather than on fetal viability is unconstitutional. However, the judge left in place parts of the law that require physicians to perform an ultrasound and tell a woman if a fetal heartbeat can be detected (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/17).
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) is currently appealing the ruling to overturn the 12-week ban.
Board Debated Approval, Concerned About Medical Interference
According to AP/THV11, the board originally rejected the measure in a 6-7 vote. However, one board member who wanted the measure to be approved "under protest" requested a second vote to change his "no" vote to "yes."
Board member Omar Atiq called the regulation "paternalistic" and "condescending." Atiq added, "For laypeople ... to tell the physicians how they should practice medicine, which is what I think this [requirement] is trying to do, is just something that I just can't swallow" (AP/THV11, 12/5).