November 27, 2012 — Now that Republicans have won control of both the House and Senate in Arkansas, abortion opponents are pushing to introduce several bills that failed in last year's legislative session, AP/Today's THV reports. However, the proposals will likely face challenges, including that they must pass both chambers' public health committees, which are not controlled by Republicans, and that legislative leaders intend to focus on budget issues.
Arkansas Right to Life plans to support three bills in the 2013 legislative session, including a measure that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which is when some abortion-rights opponents claim a fetus can feel pain.
The measure failed to pass the House Public Health Committee last year, but Arkansas Right to Life President Rose Mimms said the bill's passage depends on who is selected as the panel's chair. State Rep. Andy Mayberry (R) said he intends to reintroduce the legislation after the session begins Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Missy Irvin (R) said she plans to introduce legislation that would ban providers from using webcams to consult with patients remotely and prescribe them medication abortion.
"I just don't want a young lady to have a medical procedure where a physician is two or three hours away," Irvin said. However, a Planned Parenthood official said its Arkansas facilities do not have any plans to offer medication abortion services via telemedicine.
The third bill Arkansas Right to Life is promoting would prevent health plans offered in the state health insurance exchange from covering most abortion care. The bill failed to pass the House Public Health Committee last year after it was amended to include exemptions for rape and incest, a move supporters claimed was an effort to kill the legislation.
State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R), who will chair the Senate Public Health Committee in the upcoming session, sponsored the bill last year but said she is not sure whether she will reintroduce the measure next year.
Murry Newbern, lobbyist and policy analyst for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said she hoped lawmakers would "take heed" of national election results, which showed support for women's health issues. "Any bill that puts a woman at risk to losing quality health care or jeopardizes a woman accessing the care she wants or needs, we're going to take very seriously," Newbern said (AP/Today's THV, 11/25).