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.