LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas House members on Wednesday advanced a bill to change the required information a woman receives from a physician before an abortion and to create one of the longest waiting periods in the nation.
The proposal by Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum of Springdale, advanced to the Senate in a 75-1 vote, would increase the amount of time between the in-person meeting and the procedure from 24 hours to 48 hours. It would also change the law to require that the first consultation be in-person, meaning a requirement of at least two trips to a health care facility for a woman. Doctors would be required to discuss alternatives, health risks and the probable physical description of the fetus.
Arkansas would join Alabama as the second state to require a two-day wait, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Only three states - Missouri, South Dakota and Utah - have a longer waiting period at 72 hours.
Lundstrum said the changes will ensure women get quality information.
“This bill focuses on a woman’s health, updates the information and helps provide alternatives,” Lundstrum said.
No one else spoke for the bill and no one spoke against it.
Opponents have said information required by the bill, such as descriptions of fetal pain and potential adverse psychological effects, is medically inaccurate. Only 12 other states have requirements for doctors to describe fetal pain, according to the institute.
“This bill would create barriers for a woman to receive abortion care if or when she has made the deeply personal and often complex decision to end a pregnancy,” said Angie Remington, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
Arkansas’ lawmakers passed some of the nation’s most restrictive abortion limits in 2013 by banning most abortions 12 and 20 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy. A federal judge has struck down the 12-week ban and the state’s appeal is still pending. Legislators have already advanced a handful of anti-abortion measures this session, such as a ban on providing the abortion pill via telemedicine, requiring women to take a higher dosage of the abortion pill than typically prescribed and blocking money Planned Parenthood could receive for sex education programs.
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