LITTLE ROCK — In its first regular session after passing one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, the Arkansas Legislature is expected to consider several more proposed restrictions on the procedure.

LITTLE ROCK — In its first regular session after passing one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, the Arkansas Legislature is expected to consider several more proposed restrictions on the procedure.


In 2013, the Legislature enacted a bill to ban most abortions at 12 weeks or later into a pregnancy, overriding a veto by Gov. Mike Beebe. The law’s fate is now in the hands of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, which is considering the state’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that partially struck it down.


In the meantime, several state legislators say they will seek to impose other restrictions on abortions during the session that begins Jan. 12.


Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, said he will bring back a bill he filed in 2013 that would prohibit a state agency from awarding a grant to an entity that provides abortions or abortion referrals, contracts with a person or entity that provides abortions or referrals or is an affiliate of a person or entity that provides abortions or referrals.


Stubblefield said the bill would stop the state from giving federal grant money to Planned Parenthood for education programs on sexually transmitted diseases. The money has not funded abortions, but abortion is one of the services Planned Parenthood provides.


"There was a number of other groups that applied for those grants, and every year they were given to Planned Parenthood," Stubblefield said, adding that he believed the organization had used the money for purposes beyond education.


Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokeswoman Angie Remington said Friday in an email, "The bill that Sen. Stubblefield intends to introduce would serve no purpose other than to take away critical preventive health care for medically underserved communities, such as low-income families and individuals, young adults and the elderly. The bill would disproportionately affect these communities by taking away access to breast exams, cancer screenings, family planning, HIV testing, STD testing and treatment, birth control and more."


Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided those services to 4,000 Arkansans last year, Remington said.


Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, said she plans to introduce again a bill she filed in 2013 to require that when a drug or chemical is used to induce an abortion, the doctor who prescribed or dispensed the drug must be present physically in the room.


Irvin said abortions are not currently performed via webcam in Arkansas, but they are in some states, and her bill would ensure that the practice does not begin here.


"It’s really about the safety and the health for the woman and for the patient," she said. "This is beyond just prescribing medication. This is a chemical abortion which induces the death of that fetus, and with that come serious potential complications."


Irvin acknowledged that the bill also is intended "to prevent increased access" to abortion. Currently, women can only receive abortions in Arkansas in either Little Rock or Fayetteville.


Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, said banning webcam abortions is the group’s top priority for the session.


Holly Dickson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said limiting access to abortion was the true purpose of Irvin’s 2013 bill. Courts do not consider limiting access a legitimate purpose for imposing restrictions on abortion, she said.


Dickson noted that on Dec. 4 a federal judge partially struck down an Indiana law that would have required any medical facility that provides drugs that terminate pregnancies to meet all the standards of a surgical abortion clinic. The judge said the law had no rational basis.


"Regulations that are aimed at putting providers out of business or keeping patients from accessing health care without any rational relationship to the health of that patient are not going to pass constitutional muster," Dickson said.


Sen. David Sanders, R-Little Rock, said he has not decided whether to try again with a bill he filed in 2013 that would add to the list of things a physician or an agent of a physician must tell a patient before the patient receives an abortion.


Under the 2013 bill, at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion, a patient would have to be given oral descriptions of the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the fetus at the time the abortion is to be performed; the method to be used; all risks associated with the abortion, including cervical or uterine perforation, dangers from subsequent pregnancies, hemorrhage, increased risk of breast cancer and infection; and alternatives to abortion.


Jerry Cox, president of the Christian conservative Family Council, said the group is working on legislation along the lines of Sanders’ 2013 bill but said he did not yet know who would carry it.


"I do believe that if women have more information, we may see fewer abortions," Cox said. "But in the process we’re also going to see the health and dignity of women more respected."


Dickson said Arkansas law already requires abortion providers to warn patients of the risks of the procedure. She said she could not see a justification for expanding the law unless it was "to mandate that women be given information about the risks of pregnancy."


Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, who sponsored the 12-week abortion ban, said he is content to let the state pursue its appeal of the federal judge’s ruling that struck down part of the law. The judge left standing a provision of the law requiring a woman seeking an abortion at 12 weeks or later to receive an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat, but struck down provisions banning an abortion if a heartbeat is detected.


But Rapert said he is concerned that the state Medical Board "dragged its feet" and did not approve a rule to implement the ultrasound requirement until Dec. 4 — and then only by a 7-6 vote. He also said he is researching whether abortion providers are reporting accurately on the informed consent of patients.


"If my research shows that we are not getting accurate reporting from the abortion clinics … I will be looking at what I can do to tighten up that situation," he said.


The November election saw Republicans increase their majorities in the state House and Senate, which they won in 2012 for the first time since Reconstruction. Mimms said she expects the session to go well for her group.


"The majority of pro-life candidates won over pro-abortion candidates," she said.


Dickson said the Legislature has passed so many restrictions on abortion it is running out of ideas.


"It seems like they’re struggling to find more ways to demonstrate that they’re anti-choice," she said.