News Abortion

Arkansas Proposed Abortion Restrictions Look Much Like Expected

Robin Marty

Arkansas Right to Life says to expect a telemed ban, 20 week ban and insurance exchange ban are all on the docket this year.

As the Arkansas legislature meets for the 2013 session, a Republican majority ensures that anti-choice legislation will have much more of a chance of becoming law than in the past. Because of this, three bills are already being discussed as part of the legislative agenda: a ban on abortion coverage in the health care exchange, a 20-week ban and a bill that would prohibit “telemed” abortions.

Ironically, the spokeswoman for Right to Life claims that the telemed ban is to protect women since they have so little access to clinics.

Via ULAR Public Radio:

Rose Mimms of Arkansas Right to Life said Wednesday the organization is supporting a bill to require doctors to see patients in person before prescribing the RU-486 abortion pill, she says in order to prevent “web cam abortions.”

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“In rural Arkansas, we don’t want our young mothers going through this chemical abortion procedure with no help out there for them,” she told reporters after a press conference in the Capitol rotunda.

Why would there be “no help out there for them?” Because anti-choice activists in Arkansas have worked to close nearly all of the clinics in the state, leaving only one surgical clinic and two clinics that provide RU-486.

The two clinics that provide medication abortions are a significant distance from each other, and a fair distance for many of the rural women in the state who would go there. Although the telemed ban has not been filed yet, there is the concern that it could restrict access to the point where even the providers who are offering it to women face to face will no longer be able to do so, as we saw in Wisconsin. Should that occur, Arkansas would be left with only one clinic in the state for women to use.

No doubt that would suit Arkansas Right to life just fine.

Arkansas Right to Life hasn’t clarified exactly what they mean by a telemed ban, either, but have adamantly urged supporters to contact their legislators to make it happen. At the same time, they are urging residents to band together to stop any potential new clinics in the state, saying that Planned Parenthood is desperate to take over their communities.

So much for caring about the welfare of rural women.

News Abortion

Leading Anti-Choice ‘Expert’ Suggests Women Turn to Crisis Pregnancy Centers to Cope With Abortion Restrictions

Ally Boguhn

Though crisis pregnancy centers often lie to women to persuade them not get an abortion, Priscilla Coleman suggested that people dealing with the additional financial and geographical barriers imposed by waiting periods turn to those organizations for help.

A leading anti-choice “expert” suggested during an interview with Rewire at the National Right to Life Convention last week that women should turn to crisis pregnancy centers to cope with the barriers to abortion care, including obstacles she helped create.

Priscilla Coleman, one of the “False Witnesses” previously featured on Rewire for her egregious falsehoods about the supposed link between abortion and mental health, said that the “scientific information” she provides in her speaking engagements and through her nonprofit, the World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education (WECARE), has helped get anti-choice bills passed in states, particularly South Dakota.

Though her work has been widely discredited by the scientific and medical community, Coleman has nonetheless frequently appeared as an “expert witness” in trials and hearings. As Coleman told Rewire, she is “not a medical doctor” but has nonetheless “been really involved for ten years now with South Dakota” and its anti-choice legislation. This included the South Dakota Informed Consent Law (HB 1166), and what she deemed to be an “anti-coercion bill,” seemingly referring to HB 1217, which requires that a woman seeking an abortion wait 72 hours and visit a crisis pregnancy center prior to the abortion.

Coleman acknowledged that the anti-choice laws in the state such as the waiting period had created barriers to care, as “women have to … get a hotel, you know, or find a way back” to clinics.

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“And that’s the complaint on the other side, that it’s making access more difficult,” Coleman went on, “but as all the data out there is showing the long-term effects of abortion, spending three more days to make the decision is in the women’s best interest, no matter what side you’re on.”

When pressed to respond to those who note that anti-choice restrictions make accessing abortion more difficult, Coleman replied that she “would just say that it’s worth a three-day hotel room and … if you’re going to pay for an abortion, allow an extra couple hundred dollars … to take some time because it has lifetime implications.”

Coleman, however, struggled to account for how one might come up with that money.

“Well, they’re somehow coming up with the money for the abortion,” said Coleman. “I’m not familiar enough with fees and things, but my understanding is that most women, no matter how poor they are, still have to pay for the procedure. Is that correct?”

Though crisis pregnancy centers often lie to women to persuade them not get an abortion, Coleman suggested that those dealing with the additional financial and geographical barriers imposed by waiting periods turn to those organizations for help.

“I’m sure that if they contacted crisis pregnancy centers … women could find a place to stay for a couple of days,” said Coleman. “I’m sure that many people affiliated with those centers would be happy to house the women in their own home if there is a room for them.”

The other anti-choice law Coleman connected herself with, HB 1166, uses the same falsehoods she claims her research supports. South Dakota’s so-called informed consent law requires doctors to receive consent prior to performing an abortion, and mandates that physicians provide those seeking care with written information that, among other things, falsely claims there is a connection between abortion and both “depression and related psychological distress” and “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide.”

Coleman “served as an expert in South Dakota” after Planned Parenthood affiliates challenged the legislation, according to WECARE’s website.

As the Guttmacher Institute explains, all states already require patients consent prior to receiving medical care, and materials provided by the states that require mandated abortion counseling often offer “information that is irrelevant or misleading.”

News Law and Policy

Alabama Abortion Clinics Could Soon Be Regulated Like Sex Offenders

Teddy Wilson

GOP backers of the measure have said that abortion clinics should not be near schools because of the "commotion" caused by anti-choice protesters outside the facility.

The Republican-dominated Alabama legislature green lighted a pair of anti-choice bills Wednesday in the final hours the legislative session: one that regulates abortion clinics like sex offenders and another that criminalizes a common method of second-trimester abortion care.

Both measures were passed by wide margins. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is expected to sign both bills.

SB 205, sponsored by state Sen. Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville), would prohibit the Alabama Department of Public Health from issuing or renewing a health center license to an abortion clinic or reproductive health center located within 2,000 feet of a public school, regulating abortion clinics in the same manner as registered sex offenders.

GOP backers of the measure have said that abortion clinics should not be near schools because of the “commotion” caused by anti-choice protesters outside the facility.

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The bill targets a Huntsville-area abortion clinic that was forced by state legislators three years ago to relocate across the street from a school. The Alabama Women’s Center, one of five clinics in the state providing abortion care, reportedly spent $550,000 in relocation costs to comply with a targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law Bentley signed in 2013.

The West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, which is located near the Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools-Elementary, would also be forced to close.

The two clinics provide the vast majority of abortion services in the state. The clinics performed 5,927 abortion procedures in 2014, or 72 percent of the abortion procedures in the state that year, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The house gave final approval to SB 205 with a 73-18 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans in voting in favor of the bill.  

Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle), who sponsored an identical bill in 2015 that didn’t pass, said during floor debate that the bill was intended to protect school children, reported the Associated Press.

“I don’t feel like these types of facilities need to be anywhere near our children,” Henry said.

Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) said during the floor debate that it was disturbing that a person or facility would comply with state law only to be penalized by lawmakers.

“It is unfair for an individual to meet the demands of a law that we passed and when they moved, we create another law to put them basically out of business,” Hall said.

Officials from the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama have vowed to file a lawsuit challenging the law if it is signed by the governor. 

“This law is an attack on the health and well-being of Alabama women. Government and politicians should not intrude on these personal, private family decisions,” Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in a statement. “If passed, this outrageous law will only result in yet another costly lawsuit, which is the last thing our state needs.”

SB 363 would prohibit a physician from performing a “dismemberment abortion” unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant person. This law targets a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D and E), which is frequently used during second-trimester abortions.

Physicians who violate the law would face fines of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years. The house approved SB 363 with a 74-26 vote, with two Democrats joining the Republicans in passing the measure. 

An abortion using suction aspiration can be performed up to 14 weeks’ gestation, but after 14 weeks, the D and E procedure is commonly used to perform an abortion, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. As such, D and E bans, depending upon their language, may ban all surgical abortion past 14 weeks’ gestation.

Republican legislators in several states have introduced bills to ban the D and E procedure over the past two years. The bills have been copies of legislation drafted by the anti-choice group known as the National Right to Life Committee.

Alabama will join neighboring Mississippi in passing bills this year outlawing the procedure if Bentley signs SB 363.

State courts have blocked such measures passed by GOP lawmakers in Oklahoma and Kansas. West Virginia’s Republican-held legislature in March voted to override the veto of a similar anti-choice bill.

Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) called out what he viewed as Republican hypocrisy during the floor debate, as GOP lawmakers restrict abortion access while refusing to provide health care for low-income families.

“We want to ban abortions, but we don’t want to fund Medicaid to take care of the babies once they’re born,” Ford said.