- Associated Press - Monday, February 13, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Arkansas House approved a measure Monday requiring the state to suspend or revoke the license of abortion providers for any rule or law violation, a move that opponents say unfairly targets abortion providers.

The requirement was part of a bill approved by a 77-8 vote in the majority-Republican House that’s aimed at tightening the restrictions on the state’s abortion facilities. The measure now heads to the majority-GOP Senate.

“This is a bill that’s time has come,” Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum said before the vote. “If we’re concerned about a woman’s health, and I know many of you are, all of you are, I hope you’ll vote for this bill.”

The board would require the state to deny, suspend or revoke licenses to abortion facilities for violating any rule or law, or for permitting, aiding or abetting any illegal act in connection with the facility’s operation. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said decisions about a facility’s license are currently handled on a case-by-case basis.

Under the measure, abortion facilities would be given 30 days to request a hearing. The Health Department could immediately suspend, deny or revoke a license if an investigation or survey finds the violation posed an imminent threat to a patient’s health, welfare or safety.

The legislation would also require the state to annually inspect abortion clinics and levy them a $500 license fee, which the state already does. In addition to facilities and equipment, inspectors would also be required to look at a “representative sample” of medical records and informed and parental consent signatures.

Planned Parenthood, which operates two of the three abortion facilities in Arkansas, said it already follows the procedures outlined in the measure.

“This bill unfairly targets abortion facilities in Arkansas. It has nothing to do with protecting the health and safety of patients,” said Ashley Wright, public policy manager for Planned Parenthood Great Plains.

The measure is among several abortion restrictions advancing in the Arkansas Legislature months after Republicans expanded their majorities. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson last month signed into law a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure.

The House on Tuesday is expected to take up a proposal banning abortions performed solely based on the mother’s desire to have a girl or boy. Seven other states have similar so-called sex selection abortion bans in effect.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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