April 10, 2013 — The Arkansas Senate on Tuesday voted 19-11 to advance a bill (SB 818) that would prohibit the state from awarding grants to organizations that provide abortion care or referrals or contract with groups that do, Reuters reports.
The bill now heads to the House, which is expected to approve it and send it to Gov. Mike Beebe (D). Although Beebe recently vetoed two abortion-related measures, the Legislature overrode both of those vetoes (Parker, Reuters, 4/10).
The latest bill is aimed at blocking grants that Planned Parenthood of the Heartland receives to administer programs about preventing sexually transmitted infections. The group provides information on STIs to about 2,000 people through Little Rock-area public schools.
PPH said the bill also could cut off funding to domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and physicians if they offer abortion referrals (DeMillio, AP/Arkansas Business, 4/10). PPH, which is not specifically named in the bill, does not receive money from the state for abortion or family planning services (Reuters, 4/10).
State Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R) -- the bill's sponsor -- said, "If a group like Planned Parenthood decided they didn't want to do abortions or abortion referrals, they could apply for these grants."
State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D) said the bill "is not about abortions, but it is about singling out one entity."
Telemedicine Bill Dropped
Meanwhile, state Sen. Missy Irvin (R) said she will not move forward with an effort to ban the use of telemedicine during the provision of medication abortions.
Irvin said she dropped the measure because she was unsure if it would have passed out of committee. She plans to offer it again in 2015.
Planned Parenthood offers medication abortions in Arkansas but said it has no plans to use telemedicine to do so (AP/Arkansas Business, 4/10).