Abortion resolution a hot topic in county

HOT SPRINGS -- Most meetings of the county's legislative and appropriating authority draw little public interest, but Monday night's Garland County Quorum Court meeting is expected to be well attended.

The Garland County sheriff's office estimated up to 200 people will be at the Garland County Armory Building to weigh in on a proposed anti-abortion resolution.

"We will have several extra deputies on site in addition to the reserve deputies who are normally at the meeting," the sheriff's office said Friday.

A bipartisan majority of justices of the peace blocked a similar resolution from advancing to the full Quorum Court last February. County Judge Darryl Mahoney agreed to put the current resolution on Monday night's agenda, allowing it to bypass the committee process most items have to navigate before reaching the full Quorum Court.

As it does with all items that reach the court, the Ordinance Committee will review the resolution for form before the full court convenes at 6 p.m. Justice of the Peace Dayton Myers, R-District 7, is sponsoring the resolution. He sponsored the anti-abortion declaration that the Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee held up last year.

A resolution is a statement of opinion that carries no authority.

"I try to provide for all the JPs if they have something they want to do," Mahoney said. "Justice Myers came to me and asked if we could put it back on there. I explained to him that I felt like there was some political motivation behind it.

"At his request, I put it back on in front of the full Quorum Court, so that they could all get an opportunity to look at it and decide what they wanted to do with it."

The resolution resurfaced as six incumbent justices of the peace are being challenged in the March 5 Republican primary. Early voting starts Feb 20. The declaration became a point of contention at the candidate forum the Garland County Library hosted Tuesday, signaling a potential preview of Monday night's meeting.

"I hope the room is more packed than this," Myers, who's unopposed in the primary and general election, told an animated crowd at the library. "I want people from the pro-choice side there. I want people from the pro-life side there."

The Arkansas Progressive Democrats Caucus sent out a call to action on its Facebook page Thursday, asking for volunteers to help it get the word out about Monday's meeting.

"We could contact every registered Democrat and Independent in the county to make their voices heard against this assault on the right to choose," the caucus said on social media.

The Republican Party of Garland County adopted a resolution at its Feb. 1 meeting that asked all justices of the peace to support the resolution.

Stacey Herron said the anti-abortion declaration proceeds from an "extreme segment" of Republicans who have captured the Quorum Court. She's running unopposed for the Democratic Party's nomination in justice of the peace District 8.

"They are actively trying to redefine the functions of the Quorum Court to fit their culture war platform," she said at the Tuesday forum.

Myers said his anti-abortion stance is more informed by faith than party allegiance. An officer in the local Knights of Columbus Council, he led the Catholic fraternal organization's efforts to bring a baby box to the city of Hot Springs' Central Fire Station last year. The state's Safe Haven Act allows parents to anonymously surrender newborns 30 days or younger to a medical provider, law enforcement agency or fire department and face no criminal liability.

"That's one of the best programs to help mothers in crisis," Myers said while encouraging the audience at the forum to ask the other Quorum Court incumbents how they plan to vote Monday night.

"I'm not one of these guys who's against abortion because it's part of the Republican platform, even though I believe in the platform. I believe in pro-life all the way around, no matter what," he said.