Just one more bad act

Arkansas state senator Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) is at it again. This week he proposed Senate Bill 818, which would bar state grants to any entity that performs abortions or provides abortion referrals, contracts with a person or entity that performs abortions or abortion referrals, or is an affiliate of a person or entity that performs abortions or referrals.

While we’re all well aware of the new Republican majority’s zeal to end abortions in Arkansas, this move not only throws the proverbial baby out the window, but the mother as well.

This measure would cut off public funding to Planned Parenthood — which doesn’t perform surgical abortions in Arkansas but distributes the abortion pill at two facilities in the state. The only clinic that performs surgical abortions in the whole of Arkansas is in Little Rock.

The proposal would cut off the money Planned Parenthood receives from the state for non-abortion programs, including federal grants disbursed by the state to the group for education programs in Little Rock schools on sexually transmitted diseases.

Not only would this measure go against the grain of modern health policy, it would subvert the intention of the federal grant program that supplies much of the funds — that the state merely distributes.

“I’m glad for them to do education and do those sorts of things, but I do not like them utilizing funds, indirectly even, to support their efforts with abortion in our state,” Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) responded.

This latest march of distorted ideological folly has drawn sharp criticism from across the country. Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said of the proposal: “For many Arkansas women we care for, we are the only health care provider they rely on every year for affordable care including well woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception, and STD prevention. Planned Parenthood will fight this dangerous bill just as we fought Sen. Rapert’s abortion ban — politics should never come between a woman and her medical care.”

Apparently, June has never been to Arkansas. Politics always comes between a woman and her reproductive rights. This time the new series of draconian laws only serves to open the floodgates of litigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union has already said it will sue to block Arkansas’ new 12-week abortion restriction from taking effect. The courts are already weighing the legality of similar 20-week bans passed in other states, which are based on a theory rejected by most experts that a fetus can feel pain by then. Earlier this week, a federal judge deemed Idaho’s 20-week ban unconstitutional.

We can only imagine that this attack on the good work done by Planned Parenthood will end similarly.

Gov. Mike Beebe repeated his concerns Thursday about the costs of defending the new abortion laws: “My concern going forward is that they’re unconstitutional. You know, you put your hand on the Bible and you’re supposed to swear to uphold the constitution. It should mean something.”

Beebe’s is correct. That oath should mean something. Far outpacing any provision of abortion services they may have supported, Planned Parenthood has saved countless hundreds, if not thousands of women’s lives through their provision of women’s health services. While we can debate when life begins, these women are here now, living and breathing. They have a right to these basic medical services. Where’s the Republican concern for that?