Bill Would Ban ‘Dismemberment Abortions,’ Create Felony Offense For Physicians

Outside the Arkansas House chamber in the state Capitol building.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Bills were filed Monday (Dec. 5) by an Arkansas legislator-elect that would outlaw “dismemberment abortions” and would dedicate funds from the 2000 tobacco settlement to assist the developmentally disabled population.

Both bills were filed by Rep.-elect Andy Mayberry, R-East End.

House Bill 1032, the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, would outlaw abortions where the unborn child is dismembered and extracted from the uterus one piece at a time using clamps, forceps or other instruments. It does not apply to abortions using “suction to dismember the body parts of the unborn child into a collection container.” No other abortions would be prohibited.

The bill applies to physicians. Violations would be a Class D felony. Pregnant women, nurses, pharmacists, and other office personnel would be excluded from liability. Persons accused of violating the law could seek a hearing before the Arkansas State Medical Board. A court could decide to protect the anonymity of the woman from public disclosure.

The bill has 34 co-sponsors in the House and two in the Senate.

It would allow dismemberment abortions when the mother faces a “serious health risk” – death or “the serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” Serious health risks would not involve psychological or emotional conditions or the possibility that the pregnant woman would engage in activities that would cause serious harm to herself, the bill says.

Mayberry said the purpose of the legislation is to prevent a “barbaric, gruesome procedure” where “a living, unborn child is literally ripped apart, piece by piece.” He said the legislation is targeted at a specific procedure, so it allows the method that accomplishes the same results using suction. He said dismemberment abortions using instruments are the most prevalent procedure used in the second trimester. If the law is challenged, he said it is very similar to a federal partial-birth abortion ban that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mayberry said the bill is based on model legislation from National Right to Life and has been passed in other states. It has been challenged in some of those states, but there have been no court rulings, he said.

Civil damages could be sought by the woman, the father of the unborn child if the two are married, or the parents or legal guardians of a minor who receives such an abortion, or the parents of a woman who dies as a result of the abortion.

House Bill 1033, also by Mayberry, would amend the Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act, an initiated act passed by voters in 2000 that serves Medicaid recipients, to fund services for developmentally disabled children and adults. $8.5 million of the money is not being spent because the group is being served by expanded Medicaid services including the private option, the program that uses Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance for lower-income Arkansans.

About 2,640 individuals are on a waiting list, some since 2007, to receive home- and community-based services. Gov. Asa Hutchinson proposed the idea in September.

Mayberry said accessing the funds would trigger close to $20 million in federal funds, thereby creating about $29 million to serve that population. The bill has 28 sponsors in the House and four in the Senate.