Identical bills were filed in the House, by Rep. Julie Mayberry, and Senate, by Sen. Missy Irvin, to require the presence of a doctor when a woman first takes a drug, such as mifepristone, to induce an abortion.
The bill is aimed at outlawing doctors seeing women by Internet or television hookups, so-called telemedicine, even though this is not being done in Arkansas. In fact, it has only been done, ever, in three states, but two of those — Texas and Iowa — have now prohibited it. Minnesota still offers it, as far as I can tell.
The bills have 16 Senate sponsors and 38 House sponsors. A similar bill by Irvin died in 2013, but the larger Republican majority in 2015 likely increases its chances of passage.
Doctors must make an effort to get a patient to return for a visit after the drug is administered and make a record.
Doctors who violate the law may lose their license and they may be sued, including for punitive damages, the legislation provides. (Yes, some of the legislators otherwise attempting to limit damage lawsuits and curb punitive damages are sponsors.)
A woman who obtains an abortion-inducing drug on her own and uses it is not subject to punishment.
Planned Parenthood sued over a similar rule in Iowa. It lost the case. It said it burdened rural women by making money who could otherwise receive such a service travel great distances to see a doctor. Unless and until Roe v. Wade is overturned or seriously diminished, the anti-abortion lobby continues to push many bills to make it harder to both provide and obtain abortions. Other bills are expected.