The legislative agenda today is littered with anti-abortion legislation, some of it more immediately damaging to women’s medical rights than others and some simply cruel.
Some of it is just right-wing ‘Christian’ virtue signaling, such as Rep. Mark Lowery’s HB 1800 to prevent any public agency, including schools, from contracting with any agency that might, unrelated to its contracted work, provide abortions. He’s offered no examples of this in current practice.
Lowery revealed, through testimony by the Family Council’s Jerry Cox, that the bill was prompted by Planned Parenthood’s past work to provide sex education to some public school students. But he made disingenuous, arguably dishonest, statements in the course of selling his bill, which has passed the House and goes before a Senate committee this afternoon.
He referred ominously to THIRTEEN HUNDRED PAGES of material provided by the Pulaski County Special School District under an FOI request about any contacts with the hated Planned Parenthood. Before he was done, Lowery acknowledged his bill might mean an employee of Planned Parenthood would even be prohibited from being a room mother in public schools under his bill, so tainted might such a person be by her association to an organization whose services include abortion.
Lowery also floated a dishonest suggestion that a document referencing the number of pregnant girls in the district might be a violation of the federal student privacy act. A review of the material he received shows that the number, not names, of pregnant girls, was brought up — not by Planned Parenthood — but by a school administrator. IN 2013 writing to other school employees about the number of pregnancies. And, no, it is not a law violation to provide cumulative data about student health, it is a violation only to reveal individual information about a student.
Planned Parenthood provides no services in Pulaski schools today and has not for two years. When it did provide anything, it was provided only after parents’ signed a waiver. The information was not about abortion, but about safe sex and sexually transmitted disease. The Planned Parenthood education included abstinence, documents obtained by Jerry Cox showed.
Lowery’s bill is but another way to shame and stigmatize Planned Parenthood.
It has no practical effect on current practices. Or probably future practices.
The Internet has disrupted the fundies’ assault on sex education in schools. Planned Parenthood — and many other organizations — are taking it straight to the Internet and kids’ mobile devices.
Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains, which covers Arkansas, sold out recently on an offer of “pleasure and protection” kits and has received funding for a second round of such free offers by the Internet. Students may choose from a range of options, including sex education pamphlets, condoms, a rapid HIV test and more material useful to sexually active young people, The organization is also reaching out to parents, who welcome a comprehensive source of useful information rather than the sometimes uncomfortable “talk.”
As yet, Mark Lowery and Co. haven’t attempted to squelch speech on the Internet. As yet. Good thing. Sex education is a part of the school curriculum in Arkansas, but don’t count on it being comprehensive in all schools. The FOI file compiled by the Family Council in Pulaski County would indicate the abstinence-only approach it prefers wasn’t working very well.
Among other anti-abortion stuff grinding through today is Sen. Ben Gilmore’s bill aiming to put the two remaining abortion clinics out of business by imposing needless and unfulfillable requirements for contracts with hospitals and ambulance companies to serve women with complications. Planned Parenthood patients are given pills to take home to induce miscarriages in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, to give you some idea of how pointless this obstacle is.
Then there’s Sen. Blake Johnson’s evil SB 463. Hidden in a mountain of new intrusive information-gathering rules, you see the real point — an effective override of the rape/incest exception for late-term abortions in earlier Arkansas laws. New abortion laws have jettisoned exceptions for rape victims entirely, but some past laws retain the exception. Blake Johnson, who quoted the Bible yesterday in defense of giving equal protection to the rich in hate crime law, would allow the rape exception, INCLUDING FOR CHILDREN, only
when documentation is presented that states that the crime has been reported to law enforcement.
The creepy cousin Sen. Bob Ballinger’s infamously referenced on the Senate floor? The one who raped a family member? Do you think she’d report the creep to the cops? Do you think the Ballinger clan would allow an abortion for a raped child?
The abortion provider under Johnson’s bill also must have law enforcement documentation to legally perform an abortion for a rape victim and must report all rape/incest abortions to the state Health Department.
A zygote gets far more compassion than a child rape victim from the Arkansas legislature.
Rep. Deborah Ferguson raised these arguments in committee and begged the committe not to continue passing such legislation. She said a victim of incest couldn’t be expected to report a rape. THE BILL PASSED.
There will be scant, if any, opposition testimony. There’s not much point given the rubber-stamp cruelty of the 2021 Arkansas legislature. Lawsuits will follow on many of the bills.