A bill that would further restrict abortion access in Arkansas was overwhelmingly passed by elected officials in the lower house of the Legislature this week.
Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 75 to 20 in favor of House Bill 1037, a measure that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with an exemption given for serious health issues.
Introduced by Republican Rep. Andy Mayberry, (R-27), HB 1037 focused its ban on the time in which a fetus is said to begin feeling pain.
In a statement before fellow Arkansas lawmakers, Rep. Mayberry stressed the need for the government to protect basic human life.
"If our constituents cannot trust us, their elected representatives, to defend the most basic and essential of human rights, that of life, how can they possibly trust us to have the wisdom and discernment to make appropriate decisions regarding all of the other daily issues that face us?" asked Mayberry.
Rep. Greg Leding, the lead Democrat in the Ark. House, opposed the bill and told legislators about the need to consider the issues the woman may have.
"The case made for that exclusion is that a woman should have been able to make that decision early in her pregnancy. But what if that woman is a 12-year-old girl and she's raped by a family member or friend and she's too afraid to speak or at that young age is simply unaware that she's pregnant?" asked Leding.
HB 1037 was filed on Jan. 17, being given its first and second readings five days later. From there it went to the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor where by the end of the month it was recommended by said Committee.
On Monday it was read a third time, passed by the House, and then received by the State Senate, where it would undergo first and second reading on the same day and be sent to Committee. Presently, the upper house awaits its fate.
HB 1037 is not the only pro-life bill being advanced under the current session of the Arkansas Legislature. House Bill 1100, which would prohibit health insurance exchange policies from offering abortion coverage save through a "separate rider," was introduced by Democratic Representative Butch Wilkins (D-59). HB 1100 was passed by the House and recommended to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor.