AR Revised "Heartbeat" Bill Could be Enacted Without Governor
The Arkansas "heartbeat" bill that is currently being debated in the Arkansas state House could ban abortion after 12 weeks and be voted into law without the governor's approval.
Earlier this month, the Arkansas state Senate passed the Human Heartbeat Protection Act on a 28 to 6 vote. This act would require women who are seeking to terminate their pregnancies to undergo an ultrasound. If the probe is able to detect a fetal heartbeat, the woman would not be allowed to undergo an abortion on the grounds that a fetus with a heartbeat is a human being. Originally, the bill did not specify whether a transabdominal ultrasound or a transvaginal ultrasound would be used. A transvaginal ultrasound can detect a heartbeat as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
Since the bill passed in the state Senate, its sponsor Senator Jason Rapert (R-Conway) has revised his legislation into a "moderate" heartbeat ban. In the revised legislation, he clarified that the ban would only apply when a heartbeat is detected with an abdominal ultrasound, usually around 12 weeks into the pregnancy. He is also adding exceptions for cases of severe fetal abnormality, and is working to remove criminal penalties for abortion providers who perform a procedure after the 12 week mark. Despite these revisions, the Human Heartbeat Protection Act would be the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation.
Governor Beebe (D) has expressed concerns over the constitutionality of the heartbeat ban but has not indicated if he will veto the legislation should it pass the House. Beebe has already agreed to sign into law legislation prohibiting abortion coverage under the state health insurance exchange program and a 20 week abortion ban, however he has remained hesitant about speaking on the heartbeat bill. The Arkansas state legislature could pass the heartbeat ban into law even if the governor vetoes the bill. The Arkansas state legislation has the power to override the Governor's veto with a simple majority in both chambers. Currently both the Arkansas state House and Senate appear to have majority support for the ban.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .