The state of Arkansas dealt another blow to women’s health yesterday by sending to the governor SB 569, Sen. Gary Stubblefield’s bill that denies all state dollars to Planned Parenthood and any social service agency that might refer patients to abortion providers. The bill kills future grants for programs that have nothing to do with abortion — any kind of family health issue, such as sex education and sexually transmitted disease prevention — if the provider also offers abortion or refers women to abortion providers. See, if you fund family health programs, that is tantamount to “facilitation of abortion.” You’d think it would be the other way round, wouldn’t you? That helping women avoid diseases that endanger the life of their fetuses and prevent unwanted pregnancies would reduce the need for abortion? 

A similar bill failed two years ago, before the Republicans took over the legislature. But this bunch is all about grandstanding, not thoughtfulness. Arkansas already has a law that prevents the use of state funds for abortion. 

Planned Parenthood was getting $35,000 in state money for sex ed and STD prevention, but the grants have already expired. Of greater concern, said Angie Remington of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, is what the bill means for state-assisted agencies who deal with, for example, victims of domestic violence. (The bill, by the way, does include rape or incest among its exceptions allowing abortion.)

The bill does not affect Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or affected agencies.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland released the following statement: 

We can all agree that health and education programs that aim to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy are good for everyone. Planned Parenthood does more than any organization to prevent unplanned pregnancies and the need for abortion. Defunding Planned Parenthood only jeopardizes the progress that has been made toward reducing rates of unintended pregnancy and STDs in Arkansas.