The Arkansas House passed a bill that would ban all abortions past the 16th week of pregnancy in a near-unanimous vote yesterday. Doctors accused of violating the ban could face felony charges punishable with up to 6 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. The law includes an exception for saving the life, but not the health, of a pregnant woman.
The bill will now go to the Arkansas Senate, which is considering a similar bill that does include an exception for protecting the health of the woman. The Senate bill defines the banned procedure using language provided by the National Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The American Civil Liberties Union's Arkansas chapter is led by Rita Sklar. Sklar believes that the bill passed by the Arkansas House would not stand up in court because it lacks a health exception.
In other abortion rights developments, the Maryland state Sen. Larry Haines (R.) will introduce an abortion ban similar to those offered in Arkansas. Like the bill introduced in the Arkansas House, the Maryland bill does not include an exception for the health of the woman. Gov. Parris Glendening has said that he will not approve this legislation unless such an exception is included.
Media Resources: Kaiser Family Foundation Reproductive Health Report - January 28, 1999
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. . . .