After tabling the issue, a House committee is advancing a bill that would ban most abortions in Arkansas after 12 weeks.
Senator Jason Rapert’s bill seeks to prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected.
It passed the Senate but was tabled in a House committee until a lunchtime hearing Thursday, when it was brought back up with two amendments.
The Conway Republican’s bill originally specified the ban to begin as early as a heart beat can be detected, which is about six weeks with a transvaginal ultrasound. Now the bill specifies an abdominal ultrasound and once the pregnancy is twelve weeks or more in duration.
Rapert says he thinks the bill is constitutionally sound.
“This is allowed by Roe v. Wade, this has been vetted, this has been challenged in many other areas and we are within the allowances given to regulate abortions after the first trimester,” Rapert said.
Dr. Curtis Lowry, chairman of the OB-GYN program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences says the school’s program would come into question if the bill passes because medical residents in the program are required to learn about abortion procedures and their chances to do so in the state are already few.
“That’s a national mandate. And so if we lose the ability to do that, either we’re going to have to send the residents out of state, and we don’t have the money to pay for that, or we’re going to lose accreditation. So, it puts our program at risk,” Dr. Lowry told law makers.
Dr. Janet Cathy, a Little Rock OB-GYN also spoke against the bill.
“This bill is punitive, I don’t think it’s necessary, and yes, people lie to their doctor all the time. And that puts us at risk. It puts more and more people between the physician patient relationship. I have to worry about the patient, I have to worry about the legislature and I have to worry about the prosecuting attorney coming after me,” Dr. Cathy said.
The bill would also make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion on a woman outside of the criteria of the bill.
Dr. Cathy told lawmakers that the most advanced medical testing can only begin to check for certain fetal defects right around the time the bill would remove the choice of an abortion.
Senator Rapert’s co sponsor in the House, Benton Republican Ann Clemmer, says the new 12 week mark gives her confidence.
“And I’m comfortable that the 12 week mark is the mark we have for fetal homicide and if this is a person since 1999 in Arkansas for purposes of homicide, then it seems logical to assume that it’s also a person in regards to abortion issues,” Clemmer said.
Governor Mike Beebe has said he doesn’t think the bill would survive in court, though he hasn’t said whether he supports it. A spokesman for the Governor said Thursday afternoon that the Governor hadn’t yet read over the new amendments, but it appeared the bill would still have issues.