Not a single advocate for reproductive rights signed up to testify Wednesday in a committee meeting where state senators were expected to pass a bill requiring doctors to show women ultrasounds of their fetuses before those women can secure abortions. It’s hard to blame them. The eight-member committee is a solid red block, and Arkansas Republicans tend to fall in line on this issue.
But the bill, SB 85, was pulled at the last minute, after Arkansas Right to Life spokesperson Rose Mimms couldn’t be found to testify in favor of it.
Senate Bill 85, sponsored by Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers) and Rep. Joe Cloud (R-Russellville) is a many tentacled creature that aims to shame women away from getting abortions, and scare health care providers away from providing them.
The ultra-conservative Family Council deems SB 85 a good one because, “Research indicates that some women are less likely to have an abortion once they see an ultrasound image of their unborn child.”
The bill requires the ultrasound images to become a permanent part of the women’s medical record. It also allows women, their partners or their family members to sue doctors who provide abortion services before displaying ultrasounds. (Rapists, thankfully, are excluded from this provision.)
Bledsoe first called for a 10-minute recess when Mimms, the only person signed up to testify on SB 85, could not be found. Within minutes, though, she decided to adjourn and revisit the bill later.
The Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor did get in a bit of work before that, unanimously passing a bill sponsored by Bledsoe that will help patients get the medicine and treatments doctors prescribe without insurance companies being able to force them to try less expensive treatments first. Insurance company representatives spoke against SB 99 because they said it would increase their costs. Proponents of the bill, including a Searcy dermatologist and a cancer care advocate, presented data showing that similar laws in 25 other states increased insurance costs either marginally or not at all.