After Election, Abortion Opponents See New Opportunity in Arkansas

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 7:21 am  

The health exchange and 20-week restrictions are among three bills that Arkansas Right to Life is focusing on in petitions it is circulating among supporters urging the Legislature and Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, to back. The petition also urges the Legislature to pass a bill that would ban the use of telemedicine to make the abortion pill available.

Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said she plans on introducing legislation that would ban the process derided by abortion opponents as "webcam abortions," where a doctor would be able to consult with a faraway patient in a video teleconference, then unlock a container by remote control to release the pill.

Planned Parenthood offers the abortion pill at its facilities in Little Rock and Fayetteville, but currently doesn't have any plans to use telemedicine to offer the medication in Arkansas, an official said. Supporters of telemedicine in other states have defended it as a safe and effective way, especially in rural areas where surgical abortions aren't available.

Irvin said she's worried that it would allow abortions in areas where a doctor may not be nearby.

"I just don't want a young lady to have a medical procedure where a physician is two or three hours away," Irvin said. "That's just a real concern for me."

Abortion opponents not that they've already seen limited success in restricting the procedure with Democrats controlling the state Legislature and the governor's office. Beebe last year signed into law a proposal placing new regulations on the clinics that offer the abortion pill and in 2009 he signed legislation that mirrors a federal law banning late-term abortions.

Murry Newbern, lobbyist and policy analyst for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said she hoped legislators would take heed from national election results that she said showed support for women's health issues and she hoped lawmakers would focus more on economic issues and jobs. She noted that abortion restrictions passed in other states have been the target of lawsuits. A federal appeals court is currently weighing whether to overturn a 20-week ban in Arizona similar to Mayberry's proposal.

"Any bill that puts a woman at risk to losing quality health care or jeopardizes a woman accessing the care she wants or needs, we're going to take very seriously," Newbern said.

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