Reproductive Rights Updates: Arkansas, Virgina, Washington, Michigan, North Dakota

You know what they say: new legislative session, new asinine horseshit legislation. They do say that, right? I'm pretty sure they do.

In Arkansas, Republican Jason Rapert proposed "heartbeat" legislation that would ban abortion if cardiac activity is detected.
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas senators advanced a proposal Wednesday to ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, a move that would prohibit the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, despite a warning from opponents that it would open the state up to legal challenges.

The Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee endorsed by a voice vote legislation that would require a test to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. If one is detected, a woman could not have an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and if a mother's life is in danger.

The measure heads to a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it's sponsored by 19 of the chamber's 35 members.

"I simply recognize that without a heartbeat, there is no life, and life must be protected," Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, the bill's chief sponsor, told reporters after Wednesday's hearing.
And I simply recognize that a heartbeat does not a viable fetus make. Or even a heart itself: cardiac cells can beat in a petri dish. But, Jason Rapert (R-Conway), don't let science get in the way of your self-righteousness!

If you recall, Ohio attempted this same sort of thing, though this Arkansas legislation comes with even harsher penalties: medical personnel who perform abortions "could face a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000".


In Virgina, the final bill left to help fight against mandatory ultrasounds was defeated.
RICHMOND — A Republican-run Senate committee swiftly killed legislation Monday that would have made Virginia’s mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound exams optional after the committee chairman blocked discussion of the bill.

The hastily convened Privileges and Elections Committee special meeting lasted just minutes with Sen. Ralph S. Northam’s bill dying on a party-line vote. Six Republicans opposed and three Democrats supported it. Once proxy votes from absent Republicans were added, the final tally swelled to 8-3. Four committee Democrats did not vote.

“What a kangaroo court this is, Mr. Chairman. This is an embarrassment,” Mr. Northam huffed after committee Chairman Stephen H. Martin ordered a roll call vote while stifling efforts by Mr. Northam, a Norfolk Democrat who is a doctor, and at least one other physician to testify for the bill.

Mr. Martin, Chesterfield Republican, contended the committee had already discussed the bill. Its history in the Legislative Information System, however, showed that Senate Bill 1332 had never been before a committee or a subcommittee.
When that excuse didn't work, Martin then said that there wasn't any need to discuss it because it was just like other legislation they shot down, any minor differences in wording aside. Another committee member, Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) said she wasn't aware of it being on the agenda until minutes before the meeting started.

That's some awesome governing right there.


In Washington state, legislators have made an attempt to clarify newly proposed parental notification legislation.
A bill that abortion-rights advocates worried would repeal significant protections for women seeking abortions has been redrafted to address those concerns, a Republican supporter of the bill announced Monday. The new bill, which deals with minors seeking abortions, will get a public hearing in Olympia next week.

Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, introduced the bill requiring parents be notified if their daughters, 17 or younger, plan to get an abortion. Although the bill's title made no mention of it, one section of that bill would have repealed parts of Initiative 120, which voters approved in 1991.

That initiative set in stone a woman's right to privacy when obtaining an abortion, and it declared that physicians have the right to perform abortions and that women have the right to get one, as long as the fetus could not survive outside the womb. The section of the bill that would have repealed parts of I-120 was erroneously added by the state's nonpartisan bill drafters, Code Reviser Kyle Thiessen told Republicans in an email.

The new draft of Senate Bill 5156 omits the section in question.

The original bill also violated government transparency rules, said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley and chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

"Our state's constitution says in so many words that the title and text of a bill need to line up," Padden said in a statement released Monday. "This bill's title is clearly about notifying parents or guardians; however, an error made in the bill-drafting stage had the effect of the original text going beyond the title."
The newly revised bill still maintains the original intent which is that medical personnel must notify a parent or guardian of people under 18 who are not emancipated that need abortion services. They must notify them by telephone or in person 48 hours before the procedure. Anyone who needs to avoid this must go through court system and prove to a judge they are "mature enough" to have an abortion (but no one needs to prove they are mature enough to be a parent! I digress...). There will be a hearing on this legislation in the Senate Law and Justice Committee next week on February 6th.


In Michigan, four bills have been introduced, each one worse than the one before it.
Republican Representative Mike Shirkey introduced two bills—HB 4065 and 4066—which would prohibit all insurance coverage of abortion in health insurance plans purchased via the state exchange, except with the purchase of an additional “abortion rider.” Identical legislation had already passed in the Senate near the end of the year, but was not taken up by the House before the legislative session ended. The bills make an exception only for cases where a woman’s life is in danger, with no mention whatsoever of cases of rape or incest.
The next two bills are ones that didn't really go anywhere last session but their sponsor, Tom Hooker (R-eprehensible) is trying again:
The first, HB 4161, would prohibit the state from allocating any funds to providers that offer abortions, either via contracts or grants, forcing all clinics to choose between continuing to perform abortion or losing all eligibility for state funds. Though facilities such as Planned Parenthood already do not receive state funding aimed at funding abortion, they currently remain eligible for state grants for their family planning services. HB 4161 would cut off all of Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for state funding in Michigan, so long as they continue to provide abortions. As many clinics in the state likely face closure due to the costly regulations recently signed into law, this piece of legislation would have an even further devastating impact.

The second bill re-introduced by Hooker, HB 4162, would require that all abortions after 19 weeks take place in a facility with a neonatal unit, in case of the event that an abortion results in a live birth. The potential impact of this legislation is particularly severe when combined with HB 4162; it is unlikely that any medical facility large enough to contain a neonatal institute could afford to lose all state contracts and grants by continuing to perform abortions. This pair of bills, then, if both enacted, would in essence have the consequence of prohibiting all abortions at or beyond 19 weeks gestation in Michigan.
If you recall, Michigan recently passed HB 5711, which not only included TRAP requirements but also that whole "fetal remains must be disposed of like other dead bodies" aspect.


Determined to keep the Dakotas in the anti-autonomy spotlight, North Dakota has a few issues going. First is that anti-choice lawmakers have leaned on North Dakota State University to suspend a sex ed program--one that is voluntary and outside of schools--because the university partnered with Planned Parenthood to create the program.
NDSU professors Brandy Randall and Molly Secor-Turner won the three-year, $1.2 million competitive grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. The goal of the program—which NDSU announced in a press release last September—was to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in teens who are homeless, in foster care, or in the juvenile justice system. The school signed an agreement with Planned Parenthood in November to provide the services, which were expected to reach as many as 430 teens between the ages of 14 and 19. Planned Parenthood's office in Fargo would run the program, and the NDSU professors would evaluate its results. They had already started recruiting participants, and the program was slated to begin at the end of this month.

But in early January, anti-abortion activists in the state started complaining about the grant. "When I see something that says this is Planned Parenthood—they’re not even a part of the state of North Dakota. They don't serve anyone in North Dakota, and they shouldn't be a part of North Dakota. They're not a part of how we do business in this state," said Rep. Bette Grande on a local radio show decrying the partnership: "It is an overt abortion industry that we don't want to be a part of." On Jan. 15, NDSU President Dean Bresciani said on a conservative talk radio show that the school had decided to block the funds, citing a "legal hang-up" that prevents the school from working with Planned Parenthood.
As MoJo points out, the 1979 law bit is kind of a big pile of shit because the Planned Parenthood office in Fargo does not provide ANY medical services at all. They only provide the other aspect of Planned Parenthood: education and outreach. Many professors at NDSU were pissed about this move and the faculty senate issues a public criticism of the university president. The grant is still currently blocked.

Next with North Dakota comes again, in part, from Rep. Bette Grande, who has intro'd heartbeat legislation.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Bette Grande, R-Fargo, would require testing for a heartbeat prior to a planned abortion. Doctors performing an abortion after a heartbeat is detected would face a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Women having an abortion would not be charged under the measure.
Gee, where have I heard similar legislation? Oh that's right! That is essentially the same wording that EVERY "heartbeat" bill has. This is stock legislation undoubtedly being provided by anti-choice lobbyists. Speaking of typical anti-choice legislation, "admitting privilege" and "personhood" legislation were also introduced:
Several Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate have introduced bills this session that would impose more stringent restrictions on abortions in North Dakota, including a measure that would define a fertilized human egg as a person.


Republican Sen. Spencer Berry, a Fargo physician, introduced a Senate bill Tuesday that would require a doctor performing abortions to be an OB-GYN with hospital admitting privileges.
So, North Dakota so far: stop comprehensive sex education and make abortion services hard(er) to access. Great plans you have there. Really.

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