The Republican Behind The Nation’s Strictest Abortion Ban Also Wants To Defund Planned Parenthood

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"The Republican Behind The Nation’s Strictest Abortion Ban Also Wants To Defund Planned Parenthood"

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-AR)

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-AR), crusader against women's health

State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-AR) is the architect of the nation’s most stringent abortion legislation — Arkansas’ “fetal heartbeat” ban outlawing all abortion services after just 12 weeks, which could take effect as early as this spring. But Rapert isn’t content with potentially banning one out every 10 abortions in his state. Now, he’s looking to continue his attacks on women’s health by cutting off funding to Arkansas-area Planned Parenthood clinics.

So far this year, Arkansas Republicans have already pushed through several stringent abortion restrictions — a 20-week “fetal pain” ban, the record-breaking 12-week ban, and a measure to prevent insurance coverage of abortion services — but they have even more waiting in the wings. Now, Rapert wants to target Planned Parenthood with an initiative that will ultimately strip funding from preventative care and comprehensive sexual education programs:

Rapert is now calling for the state to prohibit any state or federal funds from going toward any entity that performs abortions. It’s a measure that’s aimed at cutting off public funding to Planned Parenthood, which doesn’t perform surgical abortions in Arkansas but distributes the abortion pill at two facilities in the state. Arkansas’ only clinic that performs surgical abortions is in Little Rock.

The proposal would cut off money Planned Parenthood receives from the state for non-abortion programs, including federal grants disbursed by the state to the group for education programs in Little Rock schools on sexually transmitted diseases. [...]

Planned Parenthood officials vowed to fight the legislation.

“For many Arkansas women we care for, we are the only health care provider they rely on every year for affordable care including well woman exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception, and STD prevention,” said Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “Planned Parenthood will fight this dangerous bill just as we fought Senator Rapert’s abortion ban — politics should never come between a woman and her medical care.”

Arkansas Republicans have been celebrating their victories in the 2012 election, when they won both chambers of the state legislature for the first time in nearly 200 years, by obsessing over undermining women’s reproductive rights. So far, the abortion restrictions that the Arkansas GOP has enacted this session are more stringent than any other laws adopted in the state’s recent history — including during the 10 years that anti-choice Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) was in office. (It’s also worth noting that although current Gov. Mike Beebe is a Democrat, he has a mixed history on abortion rights and signed the new insurance coverage ban.)

Rapert is open about the fact that his party is moving full steam ahead with its anti-abortion agenda. “For years in the state of Arkansas, these types of bills have been filed but have never been able to see the light of day because they were killed in committee who were not pro-life,” the state lawmaker explained. “That’s why you see these bills making it today.”

Unfortunately, despite the fact that ensuring women have access to affordable reproductive services will actually help lower abortion rates, Rapert’s decision to go after Planned Parenthood is unsurprising now that abortion opponents have successfully transformed the organization into a symbol in their ongoing attack on reproductive rights. Fortunately, courts have blocked most state-level efforts to defund the national organization — but anti-Planned Parenthood crusades like Rapert’s have still eliminated some essential women’s health services in Texas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Tennessee.

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