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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL --6/28/17-- Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, talks Wednesday during a press conference at the state Capitol about the damage to the newly installed Ten Commandments monument. Early Wednesday a driver drove a vehicle into the newly constructed statue. ( Staton Breidenthal)

A bill that would ban abortions 18 weeks into a woman's pregnancy -- with an exception for medical emergencies or pregnancies resulting from rape or incest -- passed in the Arkansas Senate on Monday.

There was very little discussion as House Bill 1439 passed with a 28-6 vote.

"This bill actually has been well discussed," Sen. Jason Rapert, the Senate sponsor of HB1439, told the assembly.

"It's pretty simple in that we already have existing law that prohibits abortion at 20 weeks. This moves that to 18 weeks," Rapert said.

The bill originally would allow abortions only in medical emergencies to save the life of the mother. The Senate approved an amendment Thursday offered by Rapert that added exceptions for rape and incest.

The House, which must concur in the Senate amendment, referred the bill Monday afternoon to the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. The bill, as amended, must pass the full House before heading to Gov. Asa Hutchinson's desk.

Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said the governor will sign the bill -- sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, R-Elm Springs -- as it is amended.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

HB1439 would bar doctors from performing an abortion more than 18 weeks after the first day of the woman's last period, or 16 weeks post-fertilization.

Sen. Will Bond, D-Little Rock, took issue with the definition of medical emergency in the bill. The definition in HB1439 was different from that used in Rapert's "trigger bill," Senate Bill 149, which would ban abortions in Arkansas if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its Roe v. Wade precedent or if the U.S. Constitution is ever amended to allow states to prohibit the procedure.

A "medical emergency" in both bills are basically the same except HB1439 adds the allowance of an abortion when continuation of the pregnancy would result in the "irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."

Rapert said he believed the Bureau of Legislative Review was using the language that most closely mirrored the current 20-week ban.

"I would like the BLR to be even more consistent when we're dealing with these," Rapert said.

Family Council President Jerry Cox praised the bill's Senate passage, saying HB1439 "dials back the time at which a woman can get an abortion on demand."

"I think it's a really good bill, a good law. There's no doubt really about the person who would harm a child at 18 weeks," Cox said. "If you look the photographs of the children in the womb, it's unmistakable that those are babies. I think it's vital not only for the sake of unborn children, but also for the health of women because later in the pregnancy the woman gets an abortion, the more likely there are to be health risks. That's a proven fact."

Messages left for Rita Sklar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, were not returned as of late Monday. Sklar had previously told an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter that she would take the state to court if the bill becomes law.

Calls for comment to Bettina Brownstein -- an attorney for Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Services -- were not answered.

Two states, Mississippi and North Carolina, restrict abortion after 18 weeks post fertilization and similar legislation around the nation is being debated.

A federal judge in Mississippi in November struck down an attempt to ban abortions after 15 weeks. Another 15-week ban passed by the Louisiana Legislature won't be enforced unless Mississippi's ban is allowed to take effect.

Arkansas is one of 19 states that has successfully enacted bans on abortion past 20 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research group that supports abortion rights.

Cox said the proposed legislation makes Arkansas "one of the most responsible states when it comes to protecting the unborn and protecting the health and safety of women."

"Our belief is and has always been that a pregnant woman already has a child -- she just has to decide if she's going to carry the child to term or abort the child," Cox said. "This law obviously encourages women to carry their children to term. That said, they could still get an abortion for the first four-and-a-half months of pregnancy. That's a long time. They should be able to make up their mind in that length of time."

Most abortions at the state's three abortion clinics are performed before 16-18 weeks of pregnancy, according to statistics from the Arkansas Department of Health.

Of the 3,249 abortions the Health Department recorded in 2017, only 173 were performed at 16 weeks or later. That number dropped to 75 after 18 weeks.

A Section on 03/12/2019

Print Headline: Bill to outlaw abortion after 18 weeks passes Arkansas Senate


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Archived Comments

  • WGT
    March 12, 2019 at 6:37 a.m.

    To women: Please do your best to understand Mr. Rapert is under the influence of religious insanity. He pulls his direction from a book of stories written by charlatans. Physicians are trained experts who study the mechanics and nuances of the human body with a scrutiny that is documented and based on real, tried and proven, experience.

  • JA40
    March 12, 2019 at 8:36 a.m.

    Good words, WGT. Gotta remember, if Rapert couldn't complain about abortion, what would he live to be? I'd like to see him explain to my wife what she can do with HER body.

  • mrcharles
    March 12, 2019 at 8:46 a.m.

    WGT, you confuse the understandings of science with what people who were worried about witches and making cows turn patterns if you put certain sticks with patterns around them, following what the deity wanted its playthings to follow. Science as they say changes, but the word of the "up there ILKS" never changes, so say Joe smith and the christians and the other 30,000 sects.

    the right wing wants to stop abortions so there will be children that they can punish for the sins of their parents, so that they will have something to complain about, and that they can withdraw all humanity as to them so that food and medical attention can be replaced with flying aircraft carriers powered by coal [ see trump budget].

    Perhaps if the bible thumpers knew more of their book of grimm fairy tales, they would knnow that the boss of bosses , with perfectly clarity came up with a procedure , not really medical, but just as effective in aborting children... no one hyperventilated over that procedure. Also since no even a sparrow that falls is unknown to the deity, the spontaneous miscarriages could be said to be part of the plan of this fine tuned universe [ I , myself have 50 billion galaxies set aside just for me]

    Listen, tom the cotton wants to take away food stamps, so do we want starving children. The answer for the gop then, is YES!

    And the issue of doctors knowing what is best medically, well , we do have prayer that can move mountains but often does not help one bit with medical problems [ studies show that , but again that is facts and science and the gop has an aversion to that stuff] .

  • Knuckleball1
    March 12, 2019 at 8:54 a.m.

    Very Good WGT... I keep asking my friends in Faulkner County why they keep putting this IDIOT in office, and I get told every time, "I didn't vote for him"..

  • hah406
    March 12, 2019 at 9:17 a.m.

    So now the Rev. not only wants to roll this issue way back from the point of viability, which is the SCOTUS standard; he also wants to redefine for the gestational age of a fetus. One of us went to medical school and one of us didn't. Which of us do you think knows what an actual gestational age is? I am not a fan of abortion, but I don't want this idiot telling me how to practice medicine. As long as he doesn't do that, I won't tell him what to preach in his church.

  • limb
    March 12, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.

    Convinving women he knows what’s best is easy here using religion. It furthers votes for GOP, the main goal not anything especially about children; it’s not their concern after exiting a woman’s body.

  • Dontcallmenames
    March 12, 2019 at 9:35 a.m.

    Why do you people posting here live in Arkansas? Why not move to New York where you can give a standing ovation for every child murdered?

  • limb
    March 12, 2019 at 9:38 a.m.

    Roe v Wade is settled law.

  • GeneralMac
    March 12, 2019 at 9:41 a.m.

    Very glad I moved to Arkansas.

    good southern pro-life folks

  • glow
    March 12, 2019 at 9:59 a.m.

    I am for reproductive choice. However, we shouldn't have late term abortions. If a woman doesn't want a child she should make up her mind in the first trimester. We need planned parenthood funding to educate about avoiding pregnancy.