LITTLE ROCK — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said Wednesday it was "extremely disappointed" that Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill to require that a doctor be physically present when a woman takes an abortion-inducing pill.

LITTLE ROCK — Planned Parenthood of the Heartland said Wednesday it was "extremely disappointed" that Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill to require that a doctor be physically present when a woman takes an abortion-inducing pill.


Also Wednesday, the Arkansas House approved bills to require the state Claims Commission to explain its decisions in writing and create a program for the licensure of community paramedics.


Abortion bill signed


Senate Bill 53, now Act 139 of 2015, will require when an abortion-inducing drug such as RU-486 is administered, the doctor who prescribed or dispensed the drug must be physically present in the room with the patient. A doctor who violated the law would lose his or her license.


The measure’s sponsor, Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, has said it will prevent the practice, not currently available in Arkansas, of doctors overseeing chemical abortions via Internet linkup.


Irvin, who opposes abortion, has called the measure "a reasonable bill that looks after the safety of the mother."


Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas opposed the legislation.


"For years, women in Arkansas have watched as politicians chip away at a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions," Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokeswoman Angie Remington said in a statement Wednesday. "Now, the governor has signed off on Arkansas legislators’ decision to ban an extremely safe medical procedure — one that isn’t even practiced in Arkansas at this time — in an effort to make sure a women there will never have the option of making a thoughtful decision about what is best for her and her family."


Legislative action


Hutchinson ordered state offices in the Little Rock metro area to close at noon Monday because of a snowstorm, but the House and Senate declined to take a snow day and met at the Capitol to conduct the business of the legislative session.


The House voted 68-23 to approve SB 59 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, which would require the state Claims Commission to provide specific findings of fact and conclusions of law to support a final adjudication of a claim.


Rep. Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, said the commission often does not explain its decisions in writing now but does not object to the bill.


Several House members spoke against the bill, including Rep. John Payton, R-Wilburn, co-chairman of the legislative Claims Review Commission. He noted that some members of the Claims Commission are not lawyers.


"I worry that finding findings of fact and conclusions of law are going to overwhelm those that sit on the Claims Commission and the claims committee that may not be attorneys," he said.


Shepherd said the findings of fact and conclusions of law would only be written after a claim was adjudicated. He said requiring the commission to put its reasons for reaching a decision into writing would not put members of the commission at odds with each other and would be helpful to legislators.


"Shouldn’t we have the most information available?" he said


The bill goes to the governor.


House members voted 91-0 to approve HB 1133 by Rep. Scott Baltz, D-Pocahontas, which would create a program for the licensure of a community paramedic.


A community paramedic would be authorized to make home visits to check on patients who have been discharged from hospitals and do not qualify for other in-home medical services. Baltz said the bill would save the state money by reducing re-admissions to hospitals and would provide medical assistance to people who otherwise would "fall through the cracks."


The bill goes to the Senate.


The House Rules Committee on Wednesday endorsed Senate Bill 314 by Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, which would expand the Arkansas Racing Commission from a five-member to a seven-member panel. The bill passed previously in the Senate and goes next to the House.