LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Senators in Arkansas approved a measure Thursday that imposes a new requirement on doctors who perform abortions, the latest in a series of restrictions on the procedure in the state that are moving quickly through the Legislature.
The Senate voted 29-5 in favour of the proposal, which would require doctors who perform abortions to be board-certified or board-eligible in obstetrics and gynecology. The measure now heads to the House.
The proposal advanced a day after lawmakers sent the governor legislation banning most abortions 18 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to sign the 18-week ban into law.
The latest restriction prompted complaints from Democrats about the flurry of abortion prohibitions the Legislature has taken up this session. Arkansas already bans abortion 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, and Hutchinson last month signed into law a bill to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its landmark 1972 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing the procedure nationwide.
“There comes a time when enough is enough,” Democratic Sen. Linda Chesterfield said. “We’ve had at least a gazillion bills on abortion and there are women who own businesses who will not come to this state because there seems to be a war on women.”
The latest measure is similar to a Mississippi law that a federal judge upheld last year. Supporters say the restriction is needed to ensure the safety of women undergoing abortions in Arkansas.
“This would put an added layer of protection in,” Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield said.
Medical groups have said the requirement for doctors who perform abortions is unnecessary. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it opposes such restrictions.
Arkansas has three abortion facilities, but only one — run by Little Rock Family Planning Services — performs surgical abortions. The other two, operated by Planned Parenthood, administer drugs to induce abortions.
“(The bill) would eliminate women’s access to safe, qualified providers, threatening women’s health and lives by restricting abortion access,” Gloria Pedro, Arkansas lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement.
Three Democrats joined the Senate’s 26 Republicans in supporting the restriction.
Also on Thursday, an Arkansas House panel approved a Senate-backed bill that would require doctors to give written notice to women undergoing drug-induced abortions informing them the procedure can be halted halfway through it. Medical groups say science doesn’t back up that claim. That proposal now heads to the House for a vote.
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Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press