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Arkansas legislature approves medical conscience protection bill

March 17, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Little Rock, Ark., Mar 17, 2021 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- With a 72-20 House vote on Monday, both chambers of the Arkansas General Assembly have approved a bill allowing medical providers to refuse participation in acts that violate their conscience.

The March 15 vote on the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act was largely along party lines. Two Republicans, Craig Christiansen and Joe Jett, voted against the bill; and seven lawmakers — three Republicans and four Democrats — abstained.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate in February, will return there for the reconciliation of amendments.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he is neutral on the bill, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The bill would apply conscience protections to medical workers, hospitals, and insurance providers. It would not allow participation in emergency services to be declined. An amendment to the bill removed philosophical beliefs or principles as a basis of conscience, while leaving religious, moral, and ethical beliefs or principles.

“This bill provides a remedy for our medical care providers. It does not discriminate in any way,” Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, a co-sponsor of the bill, said. The bill is supported by state surgeon general Greg Bledsoe.

House Minority Leader Tippi McCullough, D-Little Rock, said Arkansas medical providers consciences are not now being violated, and that “there will be some that will use this to discriminate or to make folks feel uncomfortable in a lot of ways. To take one of our liberties, religious freedom, to believe as you wish, and to twist it to infringe on other’s rights, even medical rights, is reprehensible.”

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the bill is opposed by abortion and contraception rights supporters, disability rights groups, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, local chapters of the National Association of Social Workers and the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the state chamber of commerce.

Earlier this month, Hutchinson signed into law the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions except when medically necessary to save the life of the mother.

The state legislature is also considering bills to regulate medical abortions and to fund private school vouchers.


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Arkansas senate passes abortion ban in new challenge to Roe

November 25, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Nov 25, 2020 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Arkansas lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban nearly all abortions in the state in what lawmakers and pro-life advocates hope will serve as a new challenge to Roe v. Wade.

On Nov. 18, State Sen. Jason Rapert (R) and Rep. Mary Bentley (R) introduced Senate Bill 6, to create the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act. The bill criminalizes abortions except when done to save the life of the mother, but does not carry charges or convictions for mothers of unlawfully aborted children.

Doctors who perform an unlawful abortion would commit a felony punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, or up to ten years in prison.

According to KUAR, the bill will be considered during the legislature’s January session.

Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas-based Family Council, praised the bill in a statement this week.

“Many people have been saying for almost 50 years that abortion should be illegal. The time has come for us to make it so,” Cox stated.

“This is an opportunity for Arkansans to be the real leader in the effort to end abortion in America,” he said.

The proposed bill also allows for the use of emergency contraceptives if a pregnancy has not yet been determined.

A federal appeals court upheld other Arkansas state abortion restrictions in August. The Eighth Circuit court allowed a 2017 state law to go into effect, which banned sex-selective abortions and the “dilation and evacuation” abortion method used in the second trimester.

Senate Bill 6 is not expected to survive in court—a similar measure in Alabama was struck down by a federal district court in Oct., 2019.

Nevertheless, Arkansas is also seeking to force a reconsideration of Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court. The state has already passed a law outlawing abortion if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, a “trigger ban” that has also been adopted by several other states. 

“It is time for the United States Supreme Court to redress and correct the grave injustice and the crime against humanity which is being perpetuated by their decisions in Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey,” states one of the findings in the bill.

“New scientific advances have demonstrated since 1973 that life begins at the moment of conception and the child in a woman’s womb is a human being.”

Arkansas and other states have passed various abortion restrictions in recent years. According to the Guttmacher Institute, five states in 2019 passed “heartbeat” bills, or bans on abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. Other states, such as Missouri, have enacted abortion bans at different stages in pregnancy.