ACLU Applauds Legislative "Gutting" of Anti-Choice Bill

February 7, 2001 12:00 am

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Wednesday, February 7, 2001

LITTLE ROCK, AK – The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today applauded lawmakers on the state Senate Public Health, Welfare, & Labor Committee, who acted in concert to negate the effects of pending anti-choice legislation.

“We are pleased that the Committee substantially altered the bill,” said Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. “While we remain opposed to government interference in the private medical relationship between a woman and her doctor, it’s clear that what’s left of this bill will have almost no effect, because women seeking abortions in Arkansas are already receiving the information mandated by the bill.”

The original version of HB 1074 mandated that women seeking an abortion be provided with information concerning the medical risks of abortion, that the state produce anti-abortion information, and that women be required to wait 24 hours after receiving the information before an abortion can be performed.

The bill also contained criminal penalties, civil liability, and extensive reporting requirements for physicians, as well as requirement that physicians personally (not a counselor or nurse) provide the information to women.

The significant amendments made to HB 1074 include:

  • Removal of criminal penalties for noncompliance;
  • Removal of civil liability for noncompliance;
  • Removal of overly burdensome reporting requirements for physicians;
  • Allowing agents of physicians to dispense information;
  • Changing 24-hour waiting period between providing information and abortion to “prior day.”

“Anti-choice forces will portray today as a significant victory, but the spoils are thin,” Sklar said. “After a lot of heat and light, they succeeded in codifying what is already being done by abortion providers, and the committee unanimously amended out the rest of the bill. The end result is a bill that does virtually nothing.”

Testimony from three of the four abortion providers in Arkansas established that each of these doctors currently provide all of the information required by HB 1074, and that in nearly all cases, more than 24 hours elapse between the time an appointment is made and the time an abortion is provided. The amended bill provides for a waiver of the information and waiting period requirements in the case of a medical emergency.

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