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Ark. Legislators Plan More Abortion Restrictions in 2015

December 16, 2014 — Several Arkansas legislators plan to propose additional abortion restrictions when lawmakers begin their 2015 session next month, the Arkansas News Bureau reports.

The state is currently in a legal dispute before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over the constitutionality of a law banning most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. A federal judge previously struck down the law, which the state Legislature enacted by overriding a veto from Gov. Mike Beebe (D).

2015 Proposals

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R) said he will refile a bill (SB 818) he introduced in 2013 that would bar state agencies from awarding grants to entities that provide abortion or abortion referrals, as well as contracting with individuals or entities that do so or are affiliated with such individuals or entities. According to Stubblefield, the bill would prevent the state from distributing federal funds to Planned Parenthood for sexual education programs.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesperson Angie Remington said in an email that such a bill would "serve no purpose other than to take away critical preventive health care for medically underserved communities, such as low-income families and individuals, young adults and the elderly." According to Remington, PPH provided such services to 4,000 state residents last year.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Missy Irvin (R) plans to reintroduce a bill she filed in 2013 that would require physicians to prescribe or dispense drugs used in medication abortions in person. Irvin said the bill would prevent abortion providers from dispensing medication abortion drugs via telemedicine, although no provider currently does so in the state. She also acknowledged that the bill aimed "to prevent increased access" to abortion.

American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas Legal Director Holly Dickson said imposing abortion restrictions for no legitimate reason would prove legally problematic. "Regulations that are aimed at putting providers out of business or keeping patients from accessing health care without any rational relationship to the health of that patient are not going to pass constitutional muster," Dickson said.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R), sponsor of the 12-week abortion ban bill, said he is currently researching whether abortion clinics' reporting on informed consent procedures is accurate and will consider next steps after his investigation.

Further, Jerry Cox -- president of the Family Council, a religious conservative group -- said his group was working on legislation that would require physicians to tell patients certain information before having an abortion. However, Cox said he was unsure which state legislator would sponsor the bill.

The legislative session begins Jan. 12 (Lyon, Arkansas News Bureau, 12/14).