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Ark. House Approves Medication Abortion Restrictions; Senate Panel Advances Bill To Block Funding to Women's Health Clinics

Ark. House Approves Medication Abortion Restrictions; Senate Panel Advances Bill To Block Funding to Women’s Health Clinics

March 6, 2015 — The Arkansas House on Thursday voted 61-7 in favor of a bill (HB 1394) that would restrict medication abortion, Arkansas News reports. The bill will now be considered by the state Senate (Lyon, Arkansas News, 3/5).

Bill Details

The bill would require that medication abortion drugs be prescribed in accordance with guidelines and dosage limits set by FDA when the drugs were initially approved. The FDA protocol is no longer current and goes against common medical practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5). Specifically, the bill would require providers to administer a dose higher than what is commonly prescribed. In addition, under the bill, medication abortions could not be administered past seven weeks of pregnancy, rather than the nine-week limit that is used in practice (DeMillo, AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/5).

The bill also stipulates that only physicians could provide medication abortion drugs to patients. The bill would require such physicians to have a contract with another physician who has agreed to handle any complications. The second physician would have to hold admitting and gynecological/surgical privileges at a nearby hospital that can handle such cases.

Providers found in violation of the requirements could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face civil penalties and disciplinary action (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/5).

Comments

State Rep. Charlene Fite (R), the bill's sponsor, said, "We have said we want to make abortion rare and safe" (AP/Idaho Statesman, 3/5).

However, state Rep. Deborah Ferguson (D) said the bill would not increase safety. "The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ... determined that actually a smaller dose of the medicine is better," she said (Arkansas News, 3/5).

Ark. Senate Panel Approves Bill To Block Funding To Abortion Providers, Regulate Tissue Disposal

In other Arkansas news, a state Senate panel on Wednesday advanced a bill (SB 569) to the full chamber that would bar the state from distributing grants to individuals or entities that offer abortion services, counseling or referrals, or that have affiliations with such individuals or entities, the Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record reports (Lyon, Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record, 3/5).

The measure would not apply to funds provided through the state's Medicaid program (AP/KAIT, 3/4).

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesperson Angie Remington noted that "[t]here are already laws preventing the use of public funds for abortion, with rare exceptions." She added, "It's difficult to understand why people who are opposed to abortion want to undermine funding for programs that work to prevent unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion."

State Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R), who is sponsoring the bill, argued that even if funds do not directly go toward abortion, he believes that no taxpayer money should go to entities that provide the procedure.

Stubblefield in 2013 sponsored a similar measure that failed to pass.

Tissue Disposal Bill Advances

In addition, the Senate panel on Wednesday voted to advance to the full Senate a bill (HB 1407) that would restrict how health care facilities, including abortion clinics, dispose of human tissue, the Times Record reports.

The bill would require physicians and facilities to dispose of human tissue "in a respectful and proper manner." Under the bill, respectful is defined as burial, cremation, incineration or release to a person authorized by the patient (Arkansas News Bureau/Southwest Times Record, 3/5).