The 91st General Assembly of the Arkansas State Legislature has focused heavily on abortion during the regular session, with five bills introduced and one already signed into law.
The piece of legislation that has already been enacted, Act 45, or the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, attracted nationwide attention. Act 45, originally HB 1032, was passed Jan. 27.
The law prohibits a common abortion method known as dilation and evacuation that usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, with the exception of when the patient’s health is at risk. The law allows patients, their spouses, their parents or legal guardians to sue the physician who performs the abortion. The act makes it a class D felony to perform a dilation and evacuation abortion.
The law does not punish a person seeking or receiving such an abortion and similarly exempts those acting at the direction of the physician, according to Act 45.
Another bill, HB 1428, is currently awaiting the signature of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) after being approved by both the House and Senate.
The bill would introduce more strict monitoring and regulation for facilities providing abortions, with any such facility that performs more than 10 abortions per month (whether by surgery or by medication) to be licensed by the Department of Health, at a cost of $500 per year. This was previously not mandatory, according to HB 1428.
The bill also specifies that these facilities must be inspected at least once per year. The licenses can be suspended or revoked for any violation of the law, according to HB 1428.
Junior Skylar Caldwell said he disapproves of both measures. Caldwell is the president of the UA Young Democrats but did not speak on behalf of the group.
“I don’t expect this to change, but I do expect and demand that Arkansas women and organizations that help Arkansas women not be socially and financially crushed under grueling regulations for acting on and defending the reproductive rights of women in this state,” Caldwell said.
Sydney Combs, the president of College Republicans, welcomed Act 45 and HB 1428. College Republicans has not taken an official stance on any of the bills.
“The lawmakers are just trying to act out the will of the people,” Combs said.
Combs said she approves of both both HB 1428 and Act 45 and views having more regulations on abortion as a positive. Act 45 will help protect fetuses human and constitutional rights, she said.
“I believe in the sanctity of life,” Combs said.