Abortion curb defeated | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Abortion curb defeated

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 11:26 AM

Rep. Andy Mayberry asked approval today of his bill to prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the belief that fetuses of that age can feel pain. His wife, Julie, gave emotional testimony about their own child's birth after diagnosis of health problems. She also said, in criticism of those who'd emailed opposition to the bill, that it would — regretfully from her point of view — still allow women who had sex to use abortion as "birth control."

Dr. Janet Cathey provided a welcome balance as an obstetrician. She said a pregnancy that reaches 20 weeks is invariably not a birth control decision, but the considered decision of a mother who hoped to deliver a child, knew the sex and had seen ultra-sound. She said a prohibition of abortion after 20 weeks would interfere with patient care and the need to perform abortions because of fetal abnormalities. "Every situation is extremely unique," she said, in arguing against an "all-encompassing" law. She also objected to new abortion reporting requirements in the bill as burdensome and duplicative of information already available and she questioned whether there was any other profession on which criminal penalties were imposed for reporting failures.

The Mayberrys, and others, cite cases of complicated pregnancies with good outcomes as a reason to limit abortion as an option for all. But the existing law requires no one to have an abortion. The choice is the mother's. Mayberry's bill would eliminate that choice and force all mothers, no matter the severity of fetal circumstances, to carry a fetus to term.

The attorney general's office, through Deputy Attorney General Elizabeth Walker, said the bill would be unconstitutional under federal court precedent. It prohibits abortion without regard to viability of the fetus, as case law requires, and sets a new standard — fetal pain. Enaction of the bill will cause an expensive legal battle, she said.

Attorney Bettina Brownstein noted the legislation was likely unconstitutional because it provided no exceptions to protect the health — as opposed to just life — of the mother. She said other exceptions disallowed as grounds for abortion in the bill — mental health or conduct of the pregnant woman — also made the bill subject to legal challenge.

UPDATE: After a tearful close by Mayberry, who urged the committee to not be viewed as "barbarians," the bill failed. It drew a vote of 9-3 in favor of passage, with 11 needed.

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