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After passing the top priority of anti-abortion groups early in the session and with one of the nation's toughest bans already tied up in the courts, Arkansas lawmakers closed out the session by passing more restrictions than any other state so far this year.

Arkansas lawmakers passed six anti-abortion bills — all of which have been signed by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson — along with two resolutions supporting pregnancy resource centers. Arkansas could be eclipsed by other states as the year progresses, but lobbyists are already working on regulations for the next regular session, inspired by other states and motivated by what didn't pass this session.

The state's Legislature passed some of the nation's most restrictive abortion bans in 2013 by banning most abortions 12 and 20 weeks into a woman's pregnancy. A federal judge has struck down the 12-week ban and the state's appeal is still pending.

Proponents say the legislation this year focused on women's health and making abortions safer while opponents have dismissed the laws as thinly veiled attempts to outlaw a legal procedure. The quantity of bills, however, is something the Center for Reproductive Rights and Americans United for Life both agree on: Arkansas has had the most so far this year.

The bevy of bills is aimed at the state's two abortion providers — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which runs clinics in Little Rock and Fayetteville, and Little Rock Family Planning Services.

The Republican-dominated Legislature didn't enact anything unprecedented, but is still at the forefront on many issues, said Dan McConchie, vice president of the national anti-abortion group. A ban on providing tax dollars to Planned Parenthood regardless of use and toughening parental involvement requirements are some of the strongest restrictions in the nation, he said, and could be emulated elsewhere. Arizona barely edged out Arkansas to become the first state to require doctors to tell women that drug-induced abortions may be reversible, which many doctors say is untrue.

The top priority of anti-abortion activists was to bar doctors from prescribing pregnancy-terminating pills through telemedicine — a practice not offered in the state. Other restrictions to begin this year include stricter information requirements, a 48-hour waiting period between an in-person meeting and the procedure, restrictions on the disposal of fetal tissue and a prohibition on state funding for abortion providers.

A ban on off-label use of the abortion pill and adding restrictions to a state law that requires parental consent will begin on January 1.

"Both the number and the direct impact on families in Arkansas this session was really unprecedented," said Erin Davison-Rippey, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which serves Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma. "When you compile them as a whole, it's absolutely devastating for people seeking health care."

Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, was pleased with the legislative action.

"Now that the tide has turned and we have Republican lawmakers, that's why we're able to see (this many) bills filed in a session," she said.

Mimms said that, in 2017, she would like to see lawmakers examine outlawing a common second-trimester procedure in which forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments are used on a live fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. Such instruments are used in certain dilation and evacuation procedures.


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Archived Comments

  • Nodmcm
    April 12, 2015 at 10:46 a.m.

    When the US Supreme Court finally allows states to decide whether or not to allow abortion, we all know that Arkansas will probably never allow legal abortions. Arkansas also might be one of the first states to remove women's right to vote, if the federal government would allow states to decide that issue. Before the 1880s, women also were not allowed to own their own property, or to enter into contracts. Perhaps someday Arkansas can remove all women's rights, returning them to the condition of chattel. Women lived as man's chattel for millenia. Who says people don't want to live in the past?

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    April 12, 2015 at 11:10 a.m.

    Don't fetal lives matter?

  • Green660
    April 12, 2015 at 8:44 p.m.

    I hope Arkansas also has the most free birth control and sex education in schools to balance this equation.

  • carpenterretired
    April 12, 2015 at 9:15 p.m.

    Well Arkansas is a national leader in teenage births and STDs, but republicans will work hard to keep women in their place.

  • chachaevije
    April 12, 2015 at 9:56 p.m.

    Google "Bionic Traders", it's about trading oil, you won't regret it, these guys are doing it right by me.

  • mitchstoner
    April 13, 2015 at 9:51 p.m.

    I don't think we are going to waste much time on curtailing women's rights. Some of our women might object , and some of them do pack, ya know?

    But we are certainly thinking about outlawing liberals altogether.

    You guys just belong in California or New York. And we know most of you get the shakes even looking at a gun.

  • rk1985
    April 22, 2015 at 8:27 a.m.

    It would be interesting to see what these people do when rape or incest happens in their families. Also, how many who support these laws are willing to step up and adopt some of the unwanted babies?

  • 3WorldState1
    April 22, 2015 at 8:45 a.m.

    Arkansas also leads the nation in divorce. Must be the strong Christian values.

  • TomN
    April 22, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

    No surprises here, unfortunately, in Arkansas. Ignorance, Christian, Arkansan or otherwise, however well intended, is just ignorance. Speaking as a minister for over 25 years, ethical decision-making is by nature at times extremely difficult and comes with its own constructs and is best left in the hands of the involved individual and professionals. To think that blanket laws are ipso facto ethical is sheer ignorance. For example, abortion in some cases is the most ethical thing that can be done given some fetal malformations. Is it a difficult decision? Absolutely! But making the best and right choice often is. Real life/reality is often filled with difficult decisions. Arkansas is certainly not last in the nation in the one category of leading the nation then in unenlightened zeal.

  • BirdDogsRock
    April 22, 2015 at 10:21 a.m.

    Green660 hits a key bullseye in this debate. The obsessive pursuit to outlaw abortions ought to be paired with (1) an equally intense campaign of TRUE biologically based sex education in schools and (2) free or practically free birth control readily available in a variety of methods for all women of all ages. For the state to do otherwise is to unintentionally (but predictably) promote suffering, child neglect, poverty, crime, poorly uneducated youth, and ending in more unwanted births, etc, etc, in an unending viscious cycle. What good does it do anyone for unwanted babies to be born into a life of poor parental love and support, neglect, with a higher possibly of eroding into mistreatment, weak educational support, and poverty, with the odds of a successful life stacked severely against them? Who is really on the moral high ground with these predictable eventual outcomes?