A Brief Look at Bad Legislation in Arkansas

A lot is happening at the Capitol in Little Rock. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the bad legislation currently before the Arkansas Legislature.

SJR 18 (Ratifying the Federal Equal Rights Amendment): This proposal by Sen. Joyce Elliott (D – Little Rock) and Rep. Jamie Scott (D – North Little Rock) would make Arkansas the 38th state to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment. This amendment to the U.S. Constitution is intended to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, but the way it is worded could cause it to have a number of unintended consequences. States that have passed similar amendments have been forced to pay for abortions with taxpayer funds, and the Equal Rights Amendment could affect everything from college fraternities and sororities to how men and women are housed in federal prisons. The measure is currently before the Senate State Agencies Committee. Read SJR 18 Here.

H.B. 1536 (Physician-Assisted Suicide): This bill by Rep. Dan Douglas (R – Bentonville) lets doctors prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives. In 1999 we worked hard to pass one of the best laws against physician-assisted suicide in the nation. This bad bill upends that good law. We know from experience in other states that people who inquire about assisted suicide generally are not concerned about pain or suffering. Many of them are lonely and feel like they are losing control over their lives because of their illness. They need counseling — not a prescription for lethal drugs. In other states, a lack of oversight has made it possible for patients who request suicide drugs to be euthanized. H.B. 1536 does not contain adequate safeguards to keep that from happening in Arkansas. Under H.B. 1536, Christian hospitals, hospices, and healthcare facilities would not be able to stop doctors who work for them from prescribing suicide drugs to their patients. The bill is currently in the House Public Health Committee. Read H.B. 1536 Here.

S.B. 304 (Sex Education): This bill by Sen. Will Bond (D – Little Rock) and Rep. LeAnne Burch (D – Monticello) requires every school district in Arkansas to offer “evidence based” health courses to 7th – 12th graders that include instruction on preventing pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases through abstinence and contraceptives. We know from experience that the kind of curriculum S.B. 304 mandates won’t actually teach students to be abstinent. Instead it will encourage students to be sexually active. Similar programs offered in Arkansas and nationwide in the past did not have a meaningful impact on teen birth rates or teen abortion rates. S.B. 304 simply continues these flawed policies. S.B. 304 is currently before the Arkansas Senate. Read S.B. 304 Here.

S.B. 492 (Entertainment Districts): This bill by Sen. Trent Garner (R – El Dorado) and Rep. Sonia Barker (R – Smackover) lets cities create “entertainment districts” where open containers of alcohol can be carried and consumed outdoors. An entertainment district could be temporary — such as at an event or festival — or it could be permanent. Because of their association with excessive drinking, entertainment districts in other states have raised serious concerns about crime, DUI offenses, and public safety. The bill is currently before the Senate City, County, and Local Affairs Committee. Read S.B. 492 Here.

H.B. 1290 (Contraceptives): This bill by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) and Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs) lets pharmacists dispense oral contraceptives to women without a prescription from a doctor. Oral contraceptives carry a number of health risks — which is why women currently need a prescription from a doctor — and they can cause the death of an unborn child by preventing the unborn child from implanting and growing inside the mother’s womb. That’s why Family Council opposes H.B. 1290. The bill has passed the Arkansas House of Representatives, and it is now before the Senate Public Health Committee. Read H.B. 1290 Here.

Senate Committee Advances Bad Sex-Education Bill

This morning the Arkansas Senate Education Committee passed a bill that forces public schools to teach graphic sex-education material to junior high and high school students.

S.B. 304 by Sen. Will Bond (D – Little Rock) and Rep. LeAnne Burch (D – Monticello) requires every school district in Arkansas to offer “evidence based” health courses to 7th – 12th graders that include instruction on preventing pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases through abstinence and contraceptives.

We know from experience that the kind of curriculum S.B. 304 mandates won’t actually teach students to be abstinent. Instead it will encourage students to be sexually active.

In the 1990s Governor Bill Clinton and Dr. Joycelyn Elders promoted these same kinds of sex-education programs in Arkansas. Family Council strongly opposed their programs, because they treated every public school student as if he or she would be promiscuous, and they failed to have a meaningful impact on Arkansas’ teen birth rates and teen abortion rates.

A few years ago, the Obama Administration spent millions of taxpayer dollars on “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention efforts nationwide. By and large, the program was unsuccessful; in fact, in some cases, students who went through the pregnancy prevention course were more likely to become pregnant afterward — not less likely.

S.B. 304 is just a continuation of these same flawed programs.

House Passes Contraceptive Bill

This afternoon the Arkansas House of Representatives narrowly passed H.B. 1290 by Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R – Clarksville) and Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs).

The bill lets pharmacists give oral contraceptives to women without a prescription from a doctor.

Family Council opposes the bill primarily for two reasons.

First, oral contraceptives carry a number of health risks — including heart attack, blood clots in the lungs, and bleeding in the brain. That’s why these pills currently require a prescription from a doctor. Letting pharmacists dispense them without the oversight of a physician jeopardizes women’s health.

Second, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration, oral contraceptives can cause the death of an unborn child. These drugs not only prevent the conception of unborn children, but they can also stop an unborn child from implanting inside the mother’s womb, causing the child to die and be miscarried. The fact that these drugs can cause the death of an unborn child makes this a human life issue.

The bill was amended last week before the House Public Health Committee passed it, and now there are concerns that some of the changes made to the bill may make it possible for pharmacists to refer women to abortion facilities like Planned Parenthood when they dispense birth control pills.

The bill now goes to the Arkansas Senate Public Health Committee. Below is a breakdown of how the Arkansas House voted today.

The Following Representatives Voted Against the Bill

Rep. Rick Beck
Rep. Stan Berry
Rep. Harlan Breaux
Rep. Joe Cloud
Rep. Cameron Cooper
Rep. Marsh Davis
Rep. Gary Deffenbaugh
Rep. Brian Evans
Rep. Lanny Fite
Rep. Jack Fortner
Rep. Mickey Gates
Rep. Lee Johnson
Rep. Jasen Kelly
Rep. Mark Lowery
Rep. Julie Mayberry
Rep. Gayla McKenzie
Rep. Ron McNair
Rep. Stephen Meeks
Rep. John Payton
Rep. Clint Penzo
Rep. Keith Slape
Rep. Brandt Smith
Rep. Nelda Speaks
Rep. Dan Sullivan
Rep. Les Warren
Rep. Danny Watson
Rep. Carlton Wing
Rep. Richard Womack
Rep. Jim Wooten

The Following Representatives Voted For the Bill

Rep. Fred Allen
Rep. Mary Bentley
Rep. Charles Blake
Rep. Justin Boyd
Rep. Karilyn Brown
Rep. LeAnne Burch
Rep. Sarah Capp
Rep. Frances Cavenaugh
Rep. Craig Christiansen
Rep. Nicole Clowney
Rep. Bruce Coleman
Rep. Andrew Collins
Rep. Andy Davis
Rep. Jana Della Rosa
Rep. Jim Dotson
Rep. Dan Douglas
Rep. Deborah Ferguson
Rep. Kenneth Ferguson
Rep. David Fielding
Rep. Vivian Flowers
Rep. Denise Garner
Rep. Jimmy Gazaway
Rep. Don Glover
Rep. Megan Godfrey
Rep. Justin Gonzales
Rep. Michelle Gray
Rep. Spencer Hawks
Rep. David Hillman
Rep. Grant Hodges
Rep. Monte Hodges
Rep. Steve Hollowell
Rep. Joe Jett
Rep. Jack Ladyman
Rep. Fred Love
Rep. Roger Lynch
Rep. Stephen Magie
Rep. Austin McCollum
Rep. Tippi McCullough
Rep. Josh Miller
Rep. Reginald Murdock
Rep. Milton Nicks
Rep. Mark Perry
Rep. Rebecca Petty
Rep. Aaron Pilkington
Rep. Jay Richardson
Rep. Chris Richey
Rep. Laurie Rushing
Rep. Johnny Rye
Rep. Jamie Scott
Rep. Stu Smith
Rep. DeAnn Vaught
Rep. John Walker
Rep. Jeff Wardlaw
Rep. David Whitaker

The Following Representatives Voted “Present” (Did Not Vote For the Bill or Against the Bill)

Rep. Sonia Barker
Rep. Ken Bragg
Rep. Cindy Crawford
Rep. Carol Dalby
Rep. Charlene Fite
Rep. Mike Holcomb
Rep. Robin Lundstrum
Rep. Jim Sorvillo
Rep. Dwight Tosh

The Following Representatives Were Absent or Did Not Vote

Rep. Bruce Cozart
Rep. Les Eaves
Rep. Jon Eubanks
Rep. Doug House
Rep. Lane Jean
Rep. John Maddox
Rep. Marcus Richmond
Rep. Matthew Shepherd