Bill Would Weaken Arkansas’ Pro-Life Laws

A bill filed last week would weaken Arkansas’ good, pro-life laws.

Thanks to legislation passed in 2019 and 2021, Arkansas law generally prohibits abortion except to save the life of the mother.

H.B. 1301 by Rep. Nicole Clowney (D – Fayetteville) adds exceptions allowing abortion in cases of “fetal abnormality incompatible with life.”

The bill does not define what is or is not a “fetal abnormality.” It is not clear how a federal judge might interpret this language.

Unborn children should not be aborted simply because a doctor thinks they may be at risk for a fetal abnormality.

Family Council strongly opposes this bill — and any other bill that would weaken our state’s pro-life laws.

Measure Permitting Pro-Life “Baby Boxes” Passes Arkansas House Without Opposition

On Tuesday the Arkansas House of Representatives passed passed H.B. 1098 without any opposition.

H.B. 1098 expands Arkansas’ Safe Haven law that lets women anonymously surrender a newborn.

The Safe Haven Act lets a woman surrender her newborn baby to law enforcement, medical personnel, and first responders.

The law gives women with unplanned pregnancies an option besides abortion, and it protects newborns from being abandoned.

Similar laws are on the books in all 50 states.

Act 185 of 2019 by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers) and Rep. Rebecca Petty (R – Rogers) improved Arkansas’ Safe Haven law by letting fire stations install Safe Haven Boxes — sometimes called ‘baby boxes’ — where women can anonymously place their newborn. Placing a baby inside the box triggers a silent alarm notifying first responders about the child.

Since then, multiple babies in Arkansas have been saved by these baby boxes.

H.B. 1098 by Rep. Julie Mayberry (R – Hensley) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View) makes it possible for volunteer fire departments to install baby boxes at their stations, provided that the department maintains and monitors the baby box in accordance with state law, and first responders are able to reach the baby in less than four minutes.

The bill now goes to the Arkansas Senate for a vote.

You can see how your representative voted here.

Bill Would Make it Possible to Sue, Prosecute Women in Arkansas Who Have Abortions

Above: A file photo of Little Rock Family Planning Services, the last surgical abortion facility to close in Arkansas. The facility shut down following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Decision.

On Thursday Rep. Richard Womack (R – Arkadelphia) and Sen. Matt McKee (R – Pearcy) filed H.B. 1174.

The bill would change Arkansas’ law concerning fetal homicide. It also would amend the state’s wrongful death law that governs lawsuits people can file when an unborn child is killed.

Current law exempts a woman from prosecution or other legal action when her unborn baby is killed. This prevents a woman from being prosecuted or sued for the death of her unborn child — even if the child’s death is caused by an abortion.

H.B. 1174 would amend Arkansas’ law in such a way that a woman could be prosecuted for having an abortion, and she could be sued if her unborn child dies.

The bill contains exceptions for “accidental miscarriage,” and for certain types of medical procedures necessary to save the life of the woman. It is unclear at this time how a court might interpret these exceptions in light of Arkansas’ other laws concerning abortion.

As Family Council has said before, our laws should not punish a woman who has an illegal abortion. Here are four reasons why not.

#1. Women were not prosecuted for having illegal abortions before Roe.

Before 1973, abortion generally was illegal in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Legislature enacted the state’s first laws against abortion around 1875.

As far as our team can tell, from 1875 to 1973 Arkansas never prosecuted women for having illegal abortions.

The abortionist could be prosecuted for breaking the law, but not the woman. The same was true in many other states that prohibited abortion prior to Roe v. Wade.

Even though Arkansans recognized that abortion was wrong, they also recognized that there were serious problems with prosecuting a woman who has an abortion.

#2. Some women are coerced into having an abortion.

Over the decades, we have heard countless women say that they were pressured into having an abortion against their will.

In some cases it was a parent who told them they had to have an abortion. In other cases it was an abusive boyfriend.

Some pro-lifers have speculated that human traffickers may force their victims to have abortions if they become pregnant.

It isn’t right to prosecute a woman who may have been forced to have an abortion against her will.

#3. How will our state prosecute illegal abortionists if the women face prosecution too?

Now that abortion is prohibited in Arkansas, our authorities need to be able to prosecute abortionists who violate the law.

In order to do that, they may need testimony from women who have gone to those abortionists for illegal abortion procedures.

Will women come forward to testify against abortionists in court if they know that they can be prosecuted too?

In the long run, prosecuting women as well as abortionists may make it harder to hold abortionists accountable for breaking the law.

#4. We don’t have to prosecute women to prevent abortion.

Since last June, Arkansas has been able to prohibit abortion and shut down abortion facilities without punishing a single woman.

Under our existing pro-life laws, the State of Arkansas can prosecute abortionists and close their abortion facilities.

We don’t have to prosecute women in order to prevent abortion in Arkansas.

We Appreciate Rep. Womack and Sen. McKee

The Arkansas Legislature is very likely the most pro-life legislature in the nation. After all, Arkansas has been ranked the most pro-life state in America for several years now. We applaud the pro-life spirit demonstrated by our good friends Rep. Womack and Sen. McKee. Their introduction of this bill proves that they care deeply about this issue, and we are grateful for that. Sometimes friends simply agree to disagree on certain policies. We are looking forward to working with both of these great lawmakers on many more good laws during this legislative session.