LITTLE ROCK — The Senate on Tuesday advanced a bill that would justify an expectant mother’s use of deadly force if she believes the life of her fetus is in danger from an attacker.
The House voted to extend the legislative session into April.
Senate Bill 170 by Sen. Stubblefield, R-Branch, passed the Senate 35-0. The proposed Pregnant Woman’s Protection Act declares that a pregnant woman is justified in using physical force or deadly force to protect her unborn child if she reasonably believes that the unborn child faces a threat that would justify the woman’s use of physical force or deadly force to protect herself.
The term unborn child is defined in the bill as “the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.”
Also under the bill, a pregnant woman would not be required to retreat or surrender property before using deadly force unless she knows she can avoid the necessity of using deadly force and simultaneously ensure the complete safety of her fetus.
“This bill is about liability and protection,” Stubblefield told the Senate. “In Arkansas, while a woman has the right to protect herself against criminal assault, she does not have the right to protect her unborn child. This bill will give her the liability protection she needs.”
The bill now goes to the House, where members Tuesday approved House Concurrent Resolution 1003 by House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot. Under the resolution, the regular business of the session would end April 19 and the session would formally adjourn May 17.
By law, legislative sessions in odd-numbered years are limited to 60 days unless the Legislature votes to extend them. The current session began Jan. 14.
The period between the end of regular business and formal adjournment, known as “sine die,” would allow lawmakers to correct errors in legislation, consider overriding gubernatorial vetoes, complete work on proposed constitutional amendments and consider issues related to Amendment 82, which allows the state to issue bonds in support of major economic development projects like the $1.1 billion Big River Steel plant currently proposed for Mississippi County.
After the House adjourned Tuesday, Carter told reporters the session could end earlier than April 19.
“I hope we’re not here that long, but I’m just putting a target out there early to know what’s the latest we can go,” he said.
The session will not be extended unless the Senate votes to do the same.
Also Tuesday, HB 1034 by Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville, passed the House 35-0. The bill would add members of advertising and promotions commissions to the list of state officials who must file statements of financial interest. The measure now goes to the governor for his signature.
The House passed, 35-0, HB 1129 by Rep. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, which clarifies how volunteer fire departments can spend their insurance premium funds. The measure goes to the governor.