Arkansas GOP Eyes Planned Parenthood Money Next

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 5:01 pm  

Republicans, who in January took control of the Legislature for the first time in 138 years, have benefited over the past two elections from President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the state. The abortion laws Republicans have already pushed through are more restrictive than any adopted during the 10½ years that Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee, a vocal abortion opponent and Baptist minister, was in office.

Rapert won re-election last year after defeating a Democratic lawmaker who chaired the House committee that rejected several anti-abortion measures in the 2011 session.

"For years in the state of Arkansas, these types of bills have been filed but have never been able to see the light of day because they were killed in committee who were not pro-life," Rapert said. "That's why you see these bills making it today."

Rapert's 12-week ban goes beyond the restrictions Arkansas Right to Life, the state's chief anti-abortion group, said it would push for during this year's legislative session. The group has already seen two of its three main agenda items - the 20-week prohibition and legislation banning most abortion coverage in the insurance exchange - become law.

The group didn't endorse Rapert's 12-week ban but didn't oppose the measure either, Executive Director Rose Mimms said.

"We are incrementalists. That's our strategy," Mimms said. "We try to make inroads where we can. We would love for the heartbeat to be able to be held constitutional."

Mimms said the next step for the group is a measure that would ban the distribution of the abortion pill using telemedicine. Planned Parenthood has said it has no plans to do so in Arkansas, although the idea has been tried in other states to help women in rural areas where abortions aren't readily available.

Republican Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View said she's working on wording of the proposed ban and expected to finalize it before the Monday deadline to file legislation.

Beebe, who signed the abortion coverage ban into law this year and has backed other limits on the procedure in the past, repeated his concerns Thursday about the costs of defending the new abortion laws.

"My concern going forward is that they're unconstitutional," Beebe told reporters Thursday. "You know, you put your hand on the Bible and you're supposed to swear to uphold the constitution. It should mean something."

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