Yesterday, the Arkansas state House approved a bill that would outlaw abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy without any exception for rape or incest on a vote of 75 to 20. The bill will now move to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee for a final decision. The state House also approved a measure prohibiting insurers in the state exchange program created by the Affordable Care Act from providing abortion coverage exception in case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
The sponsor of the 20 week ban, state Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley), told the Associated Press that a commitment to the preservation of potential new life is essential in a lawmaker: “If our constituents cannot trust us, their elected representatives, to defend the most basic and essential of human rights, that of life, how can they possibly trust us to have the wisdom and discernment to make appropriate decisions regarding all of the other daily issues that face us?”
A Democratic representative of the House, state Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville), argues that the bill’s failure to address victims of rape and incest is a serious oversight: “What if [a] woman is a 12-year-old girl and she’s raped by a family member or friend and she’s too afraid to speak or at that young age is simply unaware that she’s pregnant?” Rep. Leding opines that the twenty-week deadline is not reasonable in more disturbing cases of accidental pregnancies and that the bill has little concern for the health and safety of women.
According to Reuters, seven states have outlawed abortion after the twenty-week mark. The law is being challenged in Arizona and Georgia on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
The second measure restricting insurance coverage for abortion under a state exchange program could limit abortion access for many women, especially women of lower-income, who would be forced to pay for the procedure out of pocket. The author of the bill, state Rep. Butch Wilkins (D-Bono), says the bill would prevent taxpayers who are morally opposed to abortion from supporting the procedure financially. Opponents say that the Hyde amendment already prevents taxpayer money from funding abortion care, thus making the bill redundant.
The decision to pass the two bills happens against the backdrop of other anti-choice legislation in Arkansas. Earlier in the month, the Arkansas state Senate passed the Human Heartbeat Protection Act in a 28 to 6 decision. This act would require women who are seeking to terminate their pregnancies to undergo a vaginal ultrasound. If the probe is able to detect a fetal heartbeat, the woman would not be allowed to undergo an abortion on the grounds that a fetus with a heartbeat is a human being.