News Contraception

Arkansas Republican Wants Low-Income Women to Have Fewer Children

Teddy Wilson

An Arkansas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would create a “contraception incentive” for low-income women in the state’s Medicaid program, intending to offer a “breather to think about their life decisions that are affecting us as taxpayers.”

An Arkansas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would create a “contraception incentive” for low-income women in the state’s Medicaid program, intending to offer a “breather to think about their life decisions that are affecting us as taxpayers.”

HB 1868, sponsored by Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton), would create a one-time contraception incentive from the Arkansas Department of Human Services for unmarried women who has one child and who is receiving Medicaid benefits.

To qualify, women would need to consent to have a surgically implanted contraceptive device or other similar reversible birth control device with a period of effectiveness lasting at least five years, or receive a reimbursement after providing documentation of having a long-term birth control device implanted.

The incentive offered is for the state to cover the costs of the contraceptive device.

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“Often young people make decisions and they get a sense that they don’t want to make that decision again for a while. We need to give them a little bit of a breather to think about their life decisions that are affecting us as taxpayers,” Hammer told Arkansas News.

The bill comes in the wake of controversial comments made by another Republican lawmaker. Former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce was forced to resigned over remarks he made that women on public assistance should be required to use contraception.

“You put me in charge of Medicaid, the first thing I’d do is get [female recipients] Norplant, birth-control implants, or tubal ligations,” Pearce said, according to the Phoenix New Times. “Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs and alcohol, and if you want to [reproduce] or use drugs or alcohol, then get a job.”

The bill is reminiscent of the so-called family cap laws that were passed after welfare reform during the Clinton administration. These laws restricted the amount of government assistance low-income families could receive if they had more children.

Reproductive justice advocates in recent years have successfully lobbied for the repeal of many of these laws.

Hammer, since being elected to the state house in 2010, has compiled a staunchly anti-choice voting record. Hammer voted for the state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, and voted to override the veto of former Gov. Mike Beebe (D) after the GOP-controlled legislature passed a ban on abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Hammer also voted for the state’s ban on health plans offered through the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act from including coverage for “elective abortion” except through purchase of an optional rider, which the policyholder must pay for with an additional premium.

Hammer sits on the state’s Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, where HB 1868 has been referred to for further action.

News Abortion

Nebraska Republican Wants to Ban Second-Trimester Abortion Procedure

Teddy Wilson

A Nebraska GOP lawmaker is planning to introduce a bill that would criminalize a common medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions.

A Nebraska GOP lawmaker is planning to introduce a bill that would criminalize a common medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions.

Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue) is planning to introduce a bill to ban “dismemberment abortions,” which would target the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, commonly used in second-trimester abortion care. The procedure is a method of abortion during which a physician will dilate a woman’s cervix and remove the fetus using forceps, clamps, or other instruments.

Garrett is working with an anti-choice group, the Nebraska Right to Life, to craft the legislation, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported. The organization has been approached by four other state lawmakers during the legislative recess to inquire about sponsoring anti-choice bills during the next legislation session.

Julie Schmit-Albin, executive director of Nebraska Right to Life, told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the organization has had “more interest” this year from state lawmakers. Schmit-Albin described abortion restrictions as “chipping away” at the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

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Legislation to ban the common medical procedure has been introduced by Republican legislators in six states this year, and was signed into law by the governors of Kansas and Oklahoma. The bills have all been copies of legislation drafted by the National Right to Life Committee.

A Michigan lawmaker last week introduced two bills to ban the D and E procedure in the state, and lawmakers in Arkansas are planning on introducing similar legislation during the state’s 2017 legislative session. While the Nebraska state senate is non-partisan body, Republicans hold a 37-11 unofficial majority.

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate for the Guttmacher Institute, told Rewire that reproductive rights advocates are concerned that attempts to ban D and E abortion care could be introduced in multiple state legislatures in the coming years.

“This could be a new trend at the state level,” Nash said. “It does fall right in line with some of the trends we’ve been seeing over time. From states restricting access to post-viability abortion to the trend of 20-week abortion bans.”

Nebraska was the first state to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Lawmakers justified the restriction by charging that “substantial medical evidence indicates that [fetuses] are capable of feeling pain.” However, all available medical evidence disproves the notion of so-called fetal pain.

Garrett, who sponsored a failed 2014 bill that would have required abortion clinics to post signs that say it is “against the law for anyone to force you to have an abortion,” told the Lincoln Journal-Star that he has struggled with how to make more “progress” in restricting abortion.

When the anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress published a series of videos spreading misinformation about Planned Parenthood, it gave Garrett an opportunity to introduce new legislation.

“This Planned Parenthood stuff is so vulgar. I mean, it’s beyond words,” Garrett said of the wisely discredited attack videos distributed by CMP in coordination with Republican lawmakers. “It’s like baby body parts are commodities to be traded on the open market.”

Planned Parenthood has been repeatedly cleared by state investigations of any wrongdoing with regards to fetal tissue donation and disposal.

A recent independent analysis of the CMP videos found that footage in the “undercover” videos was found to have been deceptively edited to alter the meaning of dialogue, and significant portions of the footage were found to have been removed from videos the organization claimed were “full footage.”

Questions have been raised about CMP’s deceptive tactics, ideological agenda, and connections to radical and violent anti-choice activists. The front group is also the subject of two lawsuits.

Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said lawmakers are using the videos to justify further eroding reproductive rights. “We urge lawmakers to stop using these wholly fraudulent videos to justify measures that threaten access to affordable, high-quality health care in Nebraska,” de Baca told the Lincoln Journal-Star.

News Law and Policy

Arkansas Legislature’s Anti-Choice Bill Spree ‘Absolutely Devastating’ for Women

Teddy Wilson

While Texas has so far dominated other states in the number of bills introduced, with at least 25 bills introduced to restrict reproductive rights, no other state has passed into law more anti-choice legislation in 2015 than Arkansas.

There has been an avalanche of anti-choice legislation introduced this year by state lawmakers across the country, and 2015 may match the record number of such laws passed in 2011 and 2013.

While Texas has so far dominated other states in the number of anti-choice proposals, with at least 25 bills introduced to restrict reproductive rights, no other state has passed into law more anti-choice legislation in 2015 than Arkansas.

Almost every bill introduced by state lawmakers designed to chip away at reproductive rights was passed by Arkansas lawmakers and eventually signed into law by newly elected Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who defeated former Gov. Mike Beebe (D) in November. The state legislature is dominated by Republicans, who hold a 64-36 majority in the house and a 20-13 majority in the senate.

Abortion is already highly regulated in Arkansas, with access severely restricted. During the last regular legislative session in 2013, there were seven bills introduced by Arkansas legislators that sought to make access to abortion care even more difficult for women and families in the state.

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Of the seven bills introduced, four were passed, including a ban on insurance coverage of abortion and a fetal homicide law. Lawmakers also passed a ban on abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation. Most of these same proposals have been introduced in a host of state legislatures, but few have found their way out of committee.

Arkansas passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country during the 2013 legislative session: a bill banning abortion after 12 weeks’ gestation that was vetoed by Beebe. The law was blocked by a federal court, pending the outcome of litigation, after a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

During the 2014 campaign, Hutchinson said he would have signed both the 12-week and 20-week abortion bans.

Eight bills were introduced in 2015 by state lawmakers looking to restrict reproductive rights, and of those, six were passed by lawmakers and have become law.

“Both the number and the direct impact on families in Arkansas, this session was really unprecedented,” said Erin Davison-Rippey, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the Associated Press. “When you compile them as a whole, it’s absolutely devastating for people seeking health care.”

HB 1578, sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Springdale), was signed into law by Hutchinson earlier this month. Passed by lawmakers with little opposition, by a vote of 75-1 in the house and 26-4 in the senate, the new law mandates that women seeking abortion care be provided with biased and medically inaccurate information.

The bill requires a forced counseling session at least 48 hours before an abortion can be performed. It also provides the person seeking the abortion with other materials that include misleading information published by the state.

If a pregnant person is seeking an abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, the physician performing the abortion must provide the person with medically inaccurate information on fetal pain.

The law also includes the requirement that physicians inform patients that a medication abortion can be reversed, despite no substantiated medical evidence to support the claim. The language is similar to wording found in a law passed this year in Arizona.

Medical experts and reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns about the potential public health implications associated with the state endorsing unproven and potentially dangerous medical protocols.

Several other laws were passed that would restrict access to abortion abortion care in myriad ways.

SB 53, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View), and its companion bill, HB 1076, effectively ban the use of telemedicine abortion care in Arkansas. The bills prohibit the dispensing of abortion-inducing drugs by anyone other than a physician and require that the pregnant person and physician both be present in the same room when the drugs are administered.

Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) introduced SB 569, which prohibits public funds from going to organizations that provide abortion services. The state, according to the anti-choice law, may not award a grant to pay the direct or indirect cost of performing, inducing, referring, or counseling in favor of abortions.

HB 1394, sponsored by Rep. Charlene Fite (R-Van Buren), prevents abortion clinics from providing medication abortion care using evidence-based protocol, and requires the use of an outdated Food and Drug Administration-approved regimen. Requiring the FDA protocol makes medication abortion care more expensive and harder to access, while studies have shown that the evidence-based alternatives for medication abortion are safe and effective.

Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton), introduced HB 1407, which created new requirements for abortion providers by requiring all physicians and facilities, including abortion clinics, to dispose of human tissue through burial, cremation, incineration, or release to a patient or authorized person.

HB 1424, sponsored by Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork), prohibits a physician from performing an abortion on a minor unless the doctor first obtains notarized written consent from the parent or guardian.

Two bills were introduced but failed to be passed by the Arkansas legislature.

SB 1050, sponsored by Scott Flippo (R-Bull Shoals), would have created more licensing requirements for abortion providers and increased the inspection requirements for Arkansas abortion clinics. The bill was passed by the senate with a 30-4 vote, but stalled in a house committee.

Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) introduced HB 1421, which would have required abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. The bill never received a vote and stalled in a house committee.

Jerry Cox, president of the right-wing Family Council, told the Arkansas News Bureau that the collection of new anti-choice laws do not restrict access to abortion, but ensure that women who choose abortion are fully informed, even though much of the legislatively mandated information is, at best, medically dubious.

“I believe these are some of the best pro-life laws in the country, because they accomplish two very good things,” Cox said. “No. 1, they protect the health and safety of women, and No. 2, I believe that these laws will result in women making the better choice of not getting an abortion.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that women in Arkansas are now in the center of a region devastated by laws designed to shutter clinics and make it harder for them to get the full range of safe, legal reproductive health care they need.

“Women need ready access to reproductive health services, not interference in their personal lives and private decisions by politicians who presume to know better,” Northup said. “It’s time for these politicians to check their priorities and start spending their time on policies that actually help Arkansans.”

Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, told the Associated Press that having a GOP-controlled state legislature and a Republican governor were the keys to the passage of so many anti-choice laws.

“Now that the tide has turned and we have Republican lawmakers, that’s why we’re able to see [this many] bills filed in a session,” Mimms said.

The Arkansas legislature is in recess, and lawmakers are expected to return to formally adjourn the legislative session on April 22. Even as the 2015 season is coming to a close, anti-choice activists already have their sights set on the 2017 legislative session.

Mimms told the Associated Press that they are preparing to push a new kind of radical anti-choice legislation that has made waves in other state legislatures this year: so-called “dismemberment” bans on dilation and evacuation abortion procedures.