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Arkansas Lawmakers Pass Anti-Choice Law That Courts Have Nixed (Updated)

Teddy Wilson

"Any attempt to block a patient's right to safe and legal abortion will not go unchallenged," said Laura McQuade, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. "The state of Arkansas should not waste taxpayer dollars on this ideological war.

UPDATE, January 26, 12:38 p.m.: The Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved passage of HB 1032, as three Democrats joined Republicans in a vote of 25 to 6. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has said he will sign the measure.

The Arkansas House on Monday passed a bill, created by an anti-choice legislation mill, seeking to ban a commonly used procedure for miscarriages and second-trimester abortion care.

HB 1032, sponsored by Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley), prohibits a doctor from performing what anti-choice activists have called “dismemberment abortion” and what evidence-based medical professionals call dilation and evacuation (D and E), a procedure used after miscarriages and during abortion care in the second trimester of a pregnancy.

The GOP-backed measure includes an exception for cases where the procedure is “necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the pregnant woman”—but its definition of a health risk explicitly excludes “psychological or emotional” trauma.

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Bills criminalizing the D and E procedure were created by the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-choice legislation mill.

Mayberry presented the bill to the state house and claimed that the measure would not prevent a person from terminating a pregnancy. “To be clear, this does not prevent abortion at any particular stage of pregnancy,” Mayberry said.

However, while an abortion using suction aspiration can be performed at up to 14 weeks’ gestation, at any point after that the D and E procedure must be used, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.  

There was no debate and no lawmaker spoke in opposition to the bill, which passed with a vote of 78-10.

Laura McQuade, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement that the bill is “constitutionally unsound” and would be struck down by the courts, reported Arkansas Times Record.

“Any attempt to block a patient’s right to safe and legal abortion will not go unchallenged,” McQuade said. “The state of Arkansas should not waste taxpayer dollars on this ideological war. We urge the Arkansas Legislature to act responsibly and return to work creating policies that improve health outcomes for its communities.”

GOP lawmakers in state legislatures across the country have pushed similar measures in recent years, despite vocal opposition from the medical community.

West Virginia’s legislature last year voted to override the veto of a similar bill, and governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama signed bills to ban D and E abortions in 2016.

Similar bills were blocked by state courts in Oklahoma and Kansas

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) has promised to sign the bill if it is passed by the Republican-held legislature. 

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