Last week we brought a lot of attention to SB113, sponsored by Senator Cecile Bledsoe. SB113 effectively says Under the federal healthcare law, Arkansas will not subsidize abortions with taxpayer money, except to save the life of the mother. This acts as “enabling legislation” for Amendment 68 to the Arkansas Constitution (which states that no public funds will be used for abortion—except to save the mother’s life) by applying it to the new federal healthcare law.
The bill does not prevent anyone from getting an abortion; it just says you can’t use public funds to pay for it. Basically, it keeps Arkansas’ current policy on publicly-funded abortion the same once the federal healthcare law goes into effect.
That, however, did not prevent some lawmakers from sponsoring and approving what pro-life Rep. Barry Hyde (D-North Little Rock) accurately called a “poison pill amendment” that effectively killed the bill last week. Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (D-Warren) proposed an amendment that struck the exemption for the “life of the mother” from SB113, and changed it to an exemption for rape, incest, and health of the mother.
This amendment made the bill unconstitutional, causing SB113 to be tabled.
I honestly have no idea why Rep. Wardlaw would cast such an excellent vote on Rep. Meeks’ bill, HB1053, one week, and then sponsor such a blatantly hostile amendment to Sen. Bledose’s bill the next. Both bills prevent Arkansans from paying for things they don’t want to in the federal healthcare law.
According to Jason Tolbert at TolbertReport.com, though, it appears that the Governor may be part of this mess. Evidently, Governor Beebe went on AETN, and suggested amending SB113 to include rape, incest, and health of the mother as reasons for publicly funding an abortion. The following Thursday, Rep. Wardlaw sponsored an amendment to the bill that did just that.
So regardless of whether the Governor leaned on Rep. Wardlaw (as I’ve heard some speculate) or Rep. Wardlaw ran the amendment of his own volition, it is apparent that the two of them, evidently, agree on introducing unconstitutional, poison pill amendments like the one we saw last week.