The Arkansas legislature enacted several new pro-life laws during the 2021 regular session.
One of the first bills approved was Act 309, which prohibits abortions except in cases when it’s necessary to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.
The act does not authorize the filing of any criminal charges against the mother. However, the person who performs the abortion could be charged with a felony and fined $100,000.
If a physician is providing medical treatment to a pregnant woman and accidentally or unintentionally harms the unborn baby, the physician has an affirmative defense.
Act 309 does not prohibit the sale or use of contraceptive drugs and chemicals, as long as they are taken before the mother could reasonably know, through conventional medical testing, that she is pregnant.
The legislature also passed Act 949, which requires abortion clinics to be licensed by the state Health Department. It also prohibits hospitals from performing an abortion unless it is to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency.
Act 90 does not allow an abortion to be performed until the mother has received information about public benefits for which she may be eligible, as well as help with application forms.
The offer of free resources will include planning for a healthy pregnancy, and help with postpartum care and prenatal care. The mother will receive information about alcohol and drug abuse treatment.
The mother is not required to complete any of the services in order to get an abortion. The Health Department will set up a toll-free telephone line for pregnant women to get the offer of free services. The Department also will set up a database. Abortion providers must register on the database each abortion request, and the registration must verify that the mother received an offer of free services.
Within two days after the abortion is performed, the provider must report to the Health Department the date and time it was performed.
The abortion provider may contract with an agency to make the offer of free services to the pregnant women. That agency must report on the number of requests for help it gets from victims of abuse, coercion or sex trafficking.
The agency also must report how many women asked for help with health pregnancy planning, and how many women asked for help paying for housing, getting a job, getting child care and putting the child up for adoption.
The reports will also include the number of requests for financial help, medical care, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, help writing a resume and help getting health insurance.
To confirm that abortion providers are offering free services, or hiring an agency to offer services, the Health Department will audit the providers. Abortion providers can be fined $5,000 for each procedure performed without first offering free services to the mother.
If more than five percent of the audited cases are not in compliance with the law requiring an offer of free services, the Health Department shall revoke the license of the abortion clinic.