State board approves rule to clarify abortion law
Abortion clinics would not be responsible for handling fetal tissue expelled outside the clinic after a medication abortion, under an emergency regulation approved Wednesday by the state Board of Health.
Implementing Act 603, passed by the Legislature this year, the rule would require clinics to ensure that fetal remains are handled in accordance with the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009.
But the regulation also would clarify that clinics are not responsible for the disposition of such remains after a medication abortion “when the evacuation of any human remains occurs at a later time and not in the presence of the inducing physician nor at the facility in which the physician administered the inducing medications.”
“The way that law is written, it’s not clear whether or not an abortion facility would be responsible for the fetal tissue that might be expelled away from the facility,” Robert Brech, general counsel for the state Department of Health, told board members during a special meeting Wednesday.
He said he didn’t know of any opposition to the regulation, which the board approved with a unanimous voice vote.
Rose Mimms, executive director of the anti-abortion group Arkansas Right to Life, said she didn’t have a problem with the regulation.
“The law was never intended to really oversee medication abortions,” Mimms said.
Act 603 is one of four laws passed by the Legislature this year that are being challenged in federal court in a lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
The lawsuit contends that
Act 603 requires notice to and consent of third parties before every abortion and can be read to bar medication abortions and prevent an individual from privately disposing of fetal tissue after a miscarriage.
Attorneys for the state deny that the law restricts medication abortions or requires the father to be notified before the disposal of the remains.
The other laws being challenged by the suit are Act 45, which restricts dilation and evacuation abortions; Act 1018, which requires law enforcement agencies to be notified after an abortion on a girl younger than 17; and Act 733, which bars a doctor from performing an abortion when the patient’s history indicates she might be using the procedure as a sex-selection tool.
According to an opinion by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Act 603 will take effect Aug. 1.
If approved by the Legislative
Council’s Executive Subcommittee today, the regulation backed by the Board of Health will take effect July 31, Brech said.