Arkansas Senate Moves to Defund Planned Parenthood

State's Constitution Bans Funding Grants to Abortion Providers

Members of the Arkansas Senate voted Tuesday to defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers that receive federal and state grants to fund sex education programs.

Senate Bill 818 was introduced by Rep. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch), who aims to end the subsidization of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers that receive federal and state tax dollars to fund their sex education programs, because it violates the state's constitution.

Amendment 68 of the Arkansas constitution states that: "No public funds will be used to pay for any abortion, except to save the mother's life."

The state government facilitates the distribution of both federal and state grants, and because its constitution bans the distribution of taxpayers' dollars to organizations that perform abortions or provide abortion referrals, Planned Parenthood would be prohibited from receiving grant money.

Even though the funds do not directly pay for abortions, businesses that profit from providing abortion services do benefit from the funds. The legislation states that the funds that are distributed might be used for "expenses or activities not directly related to those for which the funds were intended," including "administrative costs, overhead, employee salaries, rent and utilities."

According to Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, eliminating these grants would hinder their ability to provide reproductive services.

"If enacted this legislation could prohibit public funds through the state for not only doctors who provide abortion, but anyone that refers for abortion, or contracts with an entity which does," June said in a statement following Tuesday's vote.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland receives two grants for HIV and Syphilis education programs for residents who live in Little Rock, Ark. Thus far, Planned Parenthood said it has provided information about STIs and HIV to 2,000 men, women and children.

"It's disheartening that some extreme lawmakers would rather make a political statement against Planned Parenthood than support these vital prevention programs for our young people," June said about the potential loss of funding for the program.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland did not provide information to CP about their plans to continue the program if they are deemed unqualified to apply for state funds. The annual report for Planned Parenthood Federation of America reveals that the nonprofit generated more than $1 billion in income from 2011 to 2012.

The Senate, which has a Republican majority, voted 19-11 in favor of the legislation, which has since moved to the House for a vote. The House also has a slight Republican majority, holding 51 of the 100 seats.

If the legislation passes in the House, it will then be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, or he can veto the bill, which the legislature can override by a simple majority (51 votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate).

The bill will not affect medical services provided to women who face a life-threatening emergency that might require an abortion, or women who have an ectopic pregnancy.

Earlier this year, the Arkansas legislature passed two bills that ban abortion after 20 weeks and 12 weeks, respectively. Gov. Beebe vetoed both bills, citing his opinion that the bans were unconstitutional. The legislature overrode both vetoes.

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