LITTLE ROCK — A House committee Thursday endorsed a bill that would ban a type of abortion known as dilation and evacuation.
In a voice vote that was not unanimous, the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1032 by Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley. The bill goes to the House.
The bill would ban an abortion procedure in which the cervix is dilated and surgical instruments are used to extract the contents of the uterus. The measure includes an exemption for situations in which the procedure is necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the mother.
Dilation and evacuation is the most commonly used method of second-trimester abortion.
HB 1032 does not use the medical term for the procedure, instead calling it by the non-medical term “dismemberment abortion.”
The bill defines “dismemberment abortion” as a procedure that “purposely dismembers the living unborn child and extracts one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors, or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, or grasp a portion of the body of the unborn child to cut or tear off a portion of the body of the unborn child.”
The measure defines “unborn child” as “an individual organism of the species Homo sapiens from fertilization until live birth.”
Under the bill, performing the procedure would be a Class D felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A person who performs the procedure also would be liable for civil damages.
Mayberry, who serves as president of the board of directors of the anti-abortion group Arkansas Right to Life, said after Thursday’s committee meeting, “With this bill we are not banning a single abortion. We are prohibiting one particularly gruesome, barbaric procedure that’s used for abortion.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas oppose the measure.
“Attacks on medical science are constitutionally unsound and have not passed muster in courts across this region,” said Laura McQuade, CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, in a statement Thursday.
“Any attempt to block a patient’s right to safe and legal abortion will not go unchallenged,” McQuade said. “The state of Arkansas should not waste taxpayer dollars on this ideological war. We urge the Arkansas Legislature to act responsibly and return to work creating policies that improve health outcomes for its communities.”
Holly Dickson, legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas, said in an interview the proposed ban “is a ban on previability abortion and the most common method for the second trimester, and for that reason we think it’s unconstitutional and it’ll lead to litigation.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has said states cannot prohibit a woman from obtaining an abortion before a fetus becomes viable, or able to live outside the womb.
Mayberry sponsored the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protect Act of 2013, which became law after the Republican-controlled Legislature overrode a veto by then Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat. The law bans most abortions at 20 weeks or later into a pregnancy.