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Arkansas Anti-Choice Bills Pass With Bipartisan Support

Teddy Wilson

“This bill intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship by requiring doctors to become investigators and patients their suspects, and it does nothing to address the root causes of gender discrimination and bias,” said Ashley Wright, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

Arkansas lawmakers continued to push anti-choice proposals through the legislature this week, as the state house passed a pair of bills that would ban abortion due to the sex of the fetus and put financial strain on abortion clinics by forcing the facilities to pay a new annual fee. 

HB 1434, sponsored by state Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) would prohibit a doctor from performing an abortion with the knowledge that the patient is seeking it solely because of the sex of the fetus.

Reproductive rights advocates argue that the justifications for sex-selection abortion bans are based on racial stereotypes. Studies have found little evidence to support the claims made by supporters of sex-selection bans.

Abortion providers, under HB 1434, would be required to ask the patient if they know the sex of the fetus. If the answer is yes, the physician would be required to inform the patient of the prohibition on sex-selection abortions.

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Physicians who perform a sex-selective abortion could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The bill was passed by the GOP-held house on Tuesday in a bipartisan 79-3 vote.

Sex-selection abortion bans are in effect in seven states and have been blocked by the courts in Illinois and Indiana, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Similar bills have been introduced in four other states this year.

“You can’t even discover the sex of a child until you’re almost to the point of Supreme Court-recognized viability anyway. Well, those technologies are changing,” Collins said prior to the floor vote, according to KUAR. “I’m already hearing about tests that can start to determine the sex of a child at say nine weeks and, you know, three years, five years, ten years from now, who knows where this will be.”

Ashley Wright, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told USA Today that the legislation “simply takes away a woman’s constitutional right” to make her own reproductive health-care decisions.  

“This bill intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship by requiring doctors to become investigators and patients their suspects, and it does nothing to address the root causes of gender discrimination and bias,” Wright said.

Jerry Cox, head of the Arkansas Family Council, was unable to provide evidence of any documented cases of sex-selective abortions in the state, reported USA Today.

“Really it’s impossible to know the answer to that, but I think most people would agree we should never allow our society to slip into a point where we favor boys over girls or girls over boys in a way that we would systematically eliminate one sex or the other,” Cox said.

The Arkansas Family Council is an affiliate of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization that promotes anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ policies.

HB 1428, sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), would require the state Department Health to conduct at least one unannounced inspection of each abortion clinic per year, and suspend or revoke the license of abortion providers for any rule or law violation.

The bill would require that abortion clinics pay a new annual $500 fee to the Department of Health.

Lundstrum repeated the anti-choice movement mantra that medically unnecessary regulations are intended to protect women’s health and safety, reported the Arkansas News Bureau. “If we’re concerned about a woman’s health, and I know … all of you are, I hope you’ll vote for this bill,” Lundstrum said before to the floor vote.

The bill was passed by the house on Monday with a 77-8 vote.

Both HB 1434 and HB 1428 have been sent to the state senate and referred to the senate committee on public health, welfare, and labor, where they await further action.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is expected to sign both anti-choice bills if the senate passes them. The governor this year has already signed into law a bill banning the most commonly used method for second-trimester abortions and miscarriages. 

The state legislature is scheduled to adjourn in the first week of March.

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