Two Bills Limiting Abortion Access Pass in Arkansas House
Yesterday, the Arkansas state House approved a bill that would outlaw abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy without any exception for rape or incest on a vote of 75 to 20. The bill will now move to the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee for a final decision. The state House also approved a measure prohibiting insurers in the state exchange program created by the Affordable Care Act from providing abortion coverage exception in case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
The sponsor of the 20 week ban, state Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley), told the Associated Press that a commitment to the preservation of potential new life is essential in a lawmaker: "If our constituents cannot trust us, their elected representatives, to defend the most basic and essential of human rights, that of life, how can they possibly trust us to have the wisdom and discernment to make appropriate decisions regarding all of the other daily issues that face us?"
A Democratic representative of the House, state Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville), argues that the bill's failure to address victims of rape and incest is a serious oversight: "What if [a] woman is a 12-year-old girl and she's raped by a family member or friend and she's too afraid to speak or at that young age is simply unaware that she's pregnant?" Rep. Leding opines that the twenty-week deadline is not reasonable in more disturbing cases of accidental pregnancies and that the bill has little concern for the health and safety of women.
According to Reuters, seven states have outlawed abortion after the twenty-week mark. The law is being challenged in Arizona and Georgia on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
The second measure restricting insurance coverage for abortion under a state exchange program could limit abortion access for many women, especially women of lower-income, who would be forced to pay for the procedure out of pocket. The author of the bill, state Rep. Butch Wilkins (D-Bono), says the bill would prevent taxpayers who are morally opposed to abortion from supporting the procedure financially. Opponents say that the Hyde amendment already prevents taxpayer money from funding abortion care, thus making the bill redundant.
The decision to pass the two bills happens against the backdrop of other anti-choice legislation in Arkansas. Earlier in the month, the Arkansas state Senate passed the Human Heartbeat Protection Act in a 28 to 6 decision. This act would require women who are seeking to terminate their pregnancies to undergo a vaginal ultrasound. If the probe is able to detect a fetal heartbeat, the woman would not be allowed to undergo an abortion on the grounds that a fetus with a heartbeat is a human being.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .