So far this session, Arkansas Republicans have already pushed through some of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. But state lawmakers aren’t finished with their attacks on reproductive rights. Now, the Arkansas legislature is attempting to strip funding from Planned Parenthood — and, intent on attacking the women’s health organization, Republicans are advancing a measure that could also have much broader consequences in the state.
The move to cut off public funding to Planned Parenthood would prevent the organization from continuing to provide sex education and STD prevention resources in Little Rock-area schools. And, since it would also target any organization that might refer women to Planned Parenthood for their reproductive care, it could also jeopardize the money that helps fund domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in the state:
But Planned Parenthood officials warned that the measure would have unintended consequences by cutting off money to any person or entity referring a woman to an abortion provider. The proposal could end research grants to doctors or stop funding to domestic violence shelters if they refer women to abortion providers, the group warned.
The group noted that the bill also would bar the state from awarding grants to “affiliates” of abortion providers, a move that could affect anyone who contracts with Planned Parenthood or entities that provide abortion referrals.
“The Arkansas Legislature is once again putting politics ahead of the health and well-being of Arkansans,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Jill June said in a statement released by the group. “Planned Parenthood is being singled out for political reasons, and the health of families in our state is being jeopardized along the way.”
The Republican party has had a complicated history with effectively addressing issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Last year’s election season came to be defined by GOP candidates making offensive comments about rape, and whether or not anti-choice Republicans would be willing to ensure abortion access for rape victims has become a particularly contentious debate. The GOP caucus has actually received multiple PR trainings to help lawmakers better talk about rape, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from advancing policies — like this effort to defund Planned Parenthood — that actually undermine initiatives to address sexual violence.
Unfortunately, Arkansas Republicans aren’t the only lawmakers who are so focused on targeting Planned Parenthood that they end up threatening other areas of women’s health and safety. Across the country, GOP attacks on the women’s health organization are leading to fewer sexual education programs, fewer preventative resources like contraception and family planning counseling, and fewer publicly-funded health clinics. And in Arizona, Republicans pushing to defund Planned Parenthood may actually end up jeopardizing the entire state’s Medicaid expansion to extend health coverage to additional low-income people.