Wednesday was a day of visual aids and threats of litigation in the Senate Public Health Committee, where a nurse practitioner waved a transvaginal probe before lawmakers.
Bettina Brownstein, an attorney for the ACLU in Arkansas, told committee members they should think twice before voting to pass The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act.
“I don’t want to make light of this, but if this passes, you might as well write a check to the ACLU,” Brownstein said.
Senate Bill 133, sponsored by Conway Senator Jason Rapert, would ban all abortions once doctors detect a fetal heartbeat. The bill makes exceptions for rape, incest and when the health of the mother is in danger.
The bill passed a voice vote in the committee, moving on to the full Senate, after being challenged by Senators Linda Chesterfield and Stephanie Flowers.
“There is a time when you have to stand up for what is right, and know that we have an illogical approach to abortion in our nation today,” Rapert said after the meeting.
Rita Sklar, director of the ACLU of Arkansas, criticized the bill’s passage.
“It’s just a slap in the face of women,” Sklar said. “Another slap in the face of women, making these personal, medical decisions.”
Rapert says the ACLU’s opposition to his bill wasn’t unexpected.
“We have found that no matter what you do when it comes to protecting life, the ACLU is consistent: they threaten a lawsuit,” Rapert said.
Rapert says he wants the Senate to vote on SB134 as soon as possible, even if it means calling for a suspension of the rules. He believes his bill has the votes it needs to clear both the Senate and the House.
Governor Mike Beebe says he’s undecided on whether he will sign the measure, and he has to be careful when making decisions that could cost Arkansas taxpayers money.
“We gotta talk to a whole lot of legal folks to see what’s legal, what complies with federal law, and what doesn’t,” Beebe said.