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A day after thousands gathered for an abortion protest at the state Capitol, House lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Monday to restrict a procedure used to end hundreds of pregnancies a year in Arkansas.

There was no debate on the floor after state Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, presented House Bill 1032 to restrict dilation and evacuation abortions, and the legislation was passed 78-10. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The procedure that would be banned by the bill is the most commonly used method of abortion for women in their second trimester, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. Mayberry's bill would allow the procedure to prevent a serious health risk to the mother. It does not include exemptions for rape or incest.

Echoing the language of his bill, Mayberry called the procedure "dismemberment abortion" and said it was a "gruesome, barbaric procedure. It is one that no civilized society should embrace."

Mayberry also said his legislation would not prevent any abortions from taking place, though opponents say the law would make it more difficult for women to obtain abortions past 12 weeks.

According to Health Department statistics, dilation and evacuation was the only procedure used for the 638 abortions performed in the 12th week of pregnancy or later in 2015. The state bans abortions past the 19th week of pregnancy.

Mayberry was the only one of the 100 House members to speak for or against the bill, and only Democrats voted against it. In addition, 10 Democrats who were present in the chamber Monday voted present or did not cast a vote.

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Debate over the bill was limited to five minutes per side when it was brought up last week in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, when representatives from both the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood had signed up to speak against it.

Because of the time restriction, the Planned Parenthood representative was unable to speak in committee. A representative from Arkansas Right to Life also declined to speak in favor of the bill after Mayberry presented it.

"It was well vetted in committee, there was a lot of discussion in committee about it," Mayberry said Monday when asked about the lack of debate.

Arkansas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group led by Mayberry, helped organize a rally at the state Capitol Sunday on the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Capitol police and event organizers estimated a crowd of between 2,000 and 3,000, though Mayberry said it was unlikely the spotlight affected Monday's vote.

"The majority of the people who voted today, they've probably known how they are going to vote on this bill for quite some time," he said.

Speaking at Sunday's event, Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson promised to sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Democrats who voted present or abstained from voting offered a variety of explanations.

"I leave that to the families. I leave that to the mother in her faith. I just don't get into those at all," said Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna.

State Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said he intended to vote against the bill but had gotten up and believed he had instructed a seat-mate to do so.

Victoria Leigh, the lawyer representing the ACLU who promised last week's committee a lawsuit should the bill pass, said the strong 76-24 GOP majority in the House may have dampened the desire for debate among lawmakers.

"That doesn't change the fact that this is a facially unconstitutional bill that will cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend," Leigh said Monday.

Restrictions on so-called D&E abortions have passed in six states, though courts have blocked the laws from taking effect in all but two of those states.

Information for this article was contributed by Brian Fanney of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

A Section on 01/24/2017

Print Headline: House favors limiting abortion


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Archived Comments

  • Nodmcm
    January 24, 2017 at 6:33 a.m.

    Even if abortions are banned, folks will still have lots and lots of sex, just for fun. There are still those abortion pills out there, so what we need next are some more drug laws, banning those abortion pills. We've done very well with our drug laws, banning methamphetamine and marijuana, and now nobody uses those drugs anymore (ahem). Next, contraceptives such as condoms and birth control pills must be banned, or else they're going to keep having sex, just for fun! Recreational sex, can we ever do away with it?

  • RobertBolt
    January 24, 2017 at 6:34 a.m.

    Apparently, these men believe a thirteen-year-old girl is sometimes nothing more than her father's baby factory.

  • 3WorldState1
    January 24, 2017 at 8:53 a.m.

    GOP=Big Gov.

  • TimberTopper
    January 24, 2017 at 9:43 a.m.

    Is this good or what? We'll get to see our AG on TV trying to beat case law, along with costing the taxpayers of this state big bucks to do it. Smart folks we got in the statehouse, voted in by more smart folks across the state. What a waste of time and money!

  • hah406
    January 24, 2017 at 7:08 p.m.

    Apparently Andy Mayberry is also in favor of lighting taxpayer money on fire and watching it burn. Because passing this bill will simply result in another lawsuit that the state has to try to defend that will be found unconstitutional. You know, I really didn't vote for any of you to go propose social legislation. I voted for you to fix the economy, jobs, healthcare, and protect citizens of this state, not to go say who can marry who and what a woman can or cannot do with her body.