LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas lawmakers gave the first ‘OK’ to a bill aimed at giving equal incentives to expecting mothers in certain businesses who want to keep their baby.
The House Public Health, Labor and Welfare Committee passed HB1006 on Thursday, advancing it to the House floor.
HB1006- filed by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-District 69) is aimed at businesses who cover abortion-related expenses, but do not provide paid maternity leave.
Pilkington said several businesses in Arkansas are doing this now, and if you are going to foot the bill for one choice, you should have to for the other as well, especially in such a pro-life state.
“You say you support choice,” Pilkington said. “You have to give them another choice.”
Pilkington said lawmakers have seen this bill coming for months. It first came to mind following the overturning of Roe v Wade when he learned some businesses were appearing to signal their support for abortions by starting to offer to cover the costs.
“Out of that hypocrisy the idea of this bill came, and I wanted to be able to offer a choice for these women,” Pilkington said. “Obviously here in Arkansas, the most pro-life state in the nation, we cannot stop these companies from sending these women into Illinois and other states to receive this… we can, though, force them to get the option of paid family leave.”
Senator Greg Leding (D-District 30) has said for months that he is all for paid maternal leave, though he would like to see it extended to the family if the other parent would like to also care for the child at home.
Pilkington said that would defeat the parity benefit purpose of the bill.
“If you’re offering one, you should also offer the other,” Pilkington said. “Well, you can’t offer that abortion services to a man, so it would ruin the parity legal implications of this bill.”
Though support for the mom is better than nothing, and he agrees they should be supported no matter their decision.
“It’s entirely possible I would vote for this policy, because at least it would put some form of maternity leave in place,” he said.
Leding added that he is appreciative of the effort to support women no matter their decision, but he hopes the intent is also not to penalize or discourage businesses from offering to cover abortion expenses.
“When a company steps up and is able to provide support for their colleagues…in this case, it’s to leave the state to get healthcare they need, certainly I think that’s something we should applaud,” he said.
The proposed maternity leave would give moms up to 12 weeks of paid time off if the bill passes. Pilkington said he decided on 12 weeks to mirror the maternity leave that is seen in Governor Sander’s LEARNS Act announced Wednesday, that also proposed this for educators.
“We don’t want to put unfunded mandates on people, we want to be a pro-business state, but at the same time we want to make sure that our women are getting taking care of,” Pilkington said.