Jezebel listed West Memphis, Arkansas, as one of the “Ten Scariest Places to Have Ladyparts in America,” citing a 1-in-1000 rape statistic on top of restrictive abortion policies and a limited number of providers. Arkansas also has the highest teen birth rate of any state in the nation, standing at 56 out of 1,000 according to Slate’s September mapping. Arkansas currently requires parental consent for minors, state-directed counseling and a next-day waiting period, and limits public funding.
Initiatives have been introduced at the state level to limit the sale of plans covering abortion on the federally-mandated state health exchange, and a fetal pain bill that included a provision to provide information on fetal pain to women seeking abortions. Both of these bills died in the Senate. A Personhood Amendment failed to make it onto the ballot in 2012.
Still, the roster of Arkansas’s abortion providers are dwindling, a trend which is unlikely to reverse itself partly thanks to a 2011 law requiring clinics to obtain licenses and meet physical facility requirements. One of the few remaining providers in Arkansas, Little Rock Family Planning Services, is worried about this trend, especially considering the effects of similar road-blocking legislation in Mississippi.
Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, who has been in office since 2006, has presided over a Democrat-controlled House and Senate who have nevertheless passed several pieces of abortion-restricting legislation over the past few sessions. (Of course, party lines are probably an unreliable metric in Arkansas, as its voters don’t tend towards conventional dichotomies.)
These Arkansas politicians have neither been immune to the spate of questionable public statements afflicting states across the country. Former Governor Mike Huckabee compared Roe v. Wade to a “holocaust of liberalized abortion.” Republican State Representative Loy Mauch (who wrote in a letter to the editor: “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it?”) is endorsed by Arkansas Right to Life.
The State GOP has pulled funding from Mauch, along with fellow Republican State Representative Jon Hubbard (“slavery was a blessing in disguise”) and Republican candidate Charlie Fuqua. This is the guy who made headlines by suggesting parents should be able to threaten their children with the death penalty to combat disobedience.
In a beautiful coincidence of hypocrisy, Fuqua thinks it’s okay to kill disobedient children, but maintains a “protect the sanctity of life” platform in his campaign for the state legislature.
Editor's Note: With 20 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Missouri, Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Maine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!