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The Senate on Thursday approved a bill to require doctors to have certain qualifications to perform abortions.

The Senate voted 29-5 to approve Senate Bill 448, by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, that would require physicians who perform or induce abortions to be board-certified, or eligible for such certification, in obstetrics and gynecology.

A violation of the requirement would be a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, and may result in the revocation, suspension or nonrenewal of the professional license of an abortion facility or physician, under the bill.

SB448 also would expand the definition of "viability" to include a fetus that, in a physician's judgment, can live outside the womb on life support "in light of the most advanced medical technology."

Arkansas Code 20-16-702 now defines a viable fetus as simply one that can live outside the womb.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

Abortions of such fetuses are prohibited except to preserve the life or health of the mother or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

SB448 would also remove a presumption in the law that a fetus is not viable before the end of the 25th week of pregnancy.

Stubblefield said he believes that this bill is needed to protect the wellness and health of women who undergo abortions.

But Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, said, "Be anti-choice. I don't care. That's your prerogative. Be anti-choice. But let's stop pretending this is about making sure that women are safe when we know it is something else.

"You are either anti-choice or you are pro-choice because there is no such thing as pro-life and anti-life."

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, said, "I get weary of the assertion, the inference, that those who care about unborn children somehow don't care about women. It is offensive to say that men have no right to speak up for life, just like anybody else. ... Life is the most important and most fundamental civil right that we have and I am proud that this body, this Legislature and our governor backed bills to stand up for the life of unborn children."

In response, Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said, "There comes a time when enough is enough. We've had at least a gazillion bills on abortion.

"There are women who own businesses who will not come to this state because there seems to be a war on women," she said. "You don't have to agree, but this is overkill."

The bill goes to the House for further action.

A Section on 03/15/2019

Print Headline: Senate approves bill requiring qualifications for abortions

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