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Ark. abortion-rights opponents to propose new restrictions

December 5, 2016 — Abortion-rights opponents in Arkansas plan to propose several new restrictions on abortion care in the upcoming legislative session, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

Background

The push in Arkansas reflects a wider effort among abortion-rights opponents nationwide to impose additional restrictions on abortion care following the elections last month (DeMillo/Weissert, AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/1).

In November, Donald Trump won the presidential election. During his campaign, Trump pledged to defund Planned Parenthood and appoint antiabortion-rights justices to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. In addition, Trump said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (PL 111-148), under which almost all insurance plans are required to cover all birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

In addition to the presidency, conservative lawmakers won the majority of seats in the House and Senate, two-thirds of state governorships and many state legislative races (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1). In Arkansas specifically, conservative lawmakers won the majority of seats in the state Legislature, including most of the seats on House and Senate committees expected to consider abortion restrictions when they are filed.

Opponents prepare multiple restrictions in Arkansas

Arkansas Rep.-elect Andy Mayberry (R), who is also president of Arkansas Right to Life, said he plans to introduce a bill to ban a medically proven method of abortion. Mississippi (HB 519) and West Virginia (SB 10) earlier this year approved measures to ban the method (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/1). Courts have blocked similar measures in Kansas and Oklahoma (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/18).

Separately, Jerry Cox -- head of the Arkansas Family Council, an antiabortion-rights group -- said his group will advocate for a measure to prohibit a woman from seeking abortion care based on the sex of the fetus. According to Cox, his group will also push for a law that would protect doctors who refuse to provide abortion care from legal action.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R) said he plans to propose a resolution asking Congress for a national convention to discuss adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define life as beginning at conception.

Planned Parenthood will fight restrictions

Planned Parenthood said it is ready to challenge restrictions that present "extreme and ideological attacks" on women.

Ashley Wright, public policy manager and lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said lawmakers should "focus on policies that increase the health of all Arkansans, not on wasting taxpayer money to introduce legislation that will most likely be challenged" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 12/1).