Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UPDATE: Guns and fetuses — abortion ban approved by Senate committee today

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 12:04 PM

The Guns and Fetuses session of the Arkansas legislature continues today. Word is that Rep. Andy Mayberry will amend his abortion ban beginning with the 20th week of pregnancy to allow for abortions in cases of rape and incest.

As written, the bill provided an exception only to save the life of the mother or avoid "irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."

Rape and incest exceptions have been the holdup for the bill in Senate committee, which has the bill this morning. There is NO exception still for abortions sought in the case of fetal abornmalities, the primary reason for later term abortions in the first place. Only a small number are performed in Arkansas each year.

The new exceptions don't cure the constitutional problems with the bill. The U.S. Supreme Court has held repeatedly that states may not ban abortions before viability of the fetus — roughly 24 weeks. But a district court has approved a 20-week limit in Arizona, a decision now on appeal.

PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE UPDATE: The Senate committee delayed action today on Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's bill to require drug testing of people receiving unemployment benefits. This idea — thoroughly repudiated as a useful tool in a Florida rollout — foundered at least temporarily until there can be a study of its cost. Higher than benefits, for sure. Let's drug test legislators while we're at it. And require legislative polygraphs, too, on a range of issues: Have they ever taken illegal drugs; driven while intoxicated; paid for an abortion; cheated on income taxes.

UPDATE II: James Owen reports that the committe endorsed Mayberry's amended bill. Testimony replayed the House events, with Mayberry playing a video of his child, who was born with spina bifida, emotional but irrelevant. Current law does not require ANYONE to have an abortion. But Mayberry's bill would prevent others from exercising choice, including in cases where there's a medical certainty the fetus would not survive outside the womb. If passed by the Senate and allowed to become law by the governor, who's expressed reservations, it will be challenged in court as unconstitutional.

The bill was approved on a voice vote. Only Sen. Linda Chesterfield could be audibly heard to express a "no" vote.

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