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State House approves abortion hotline requirement bill

by John Moritz | February 2, 2021 at 7:04 a.m.
FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this 2019 file photo.

The Arkansas House passed legislation Monday to create a hotline that women would be required to call before receiving abortions.

The hotline would inform them of services they can receive if they remain pregnant.

House Bill 1195, dubbed the "Every Mom Matters Act," passed the House 75-13, with most Democrats voting either in opposition or "present."

The sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, said it was estimated the bill would reduce abortions by up to a third by "making sure every woman obtaining an abortion in Arkansas knows about both the resources public and private available to her."

The bill would require the state Department of Health to set up the hotline to provide information on available medical, welfare and private assistance programs.

Dotson said women could fulfill the requirement with a five-minute call. He said the services would remain available until the child's second birthday.

Both Dotson and the Health Department have provided different estimations for the cost of the bill.

Dotson told the House on Monday that the legislation would cost $1.2-1.5 million, based on similar programs in other states.

The Health Department, however, told a legislative committee last week that it would cost between $4-5 million to develop and fund the hotline and connection to services.

The bill itself does not include any funding for the Health Department to create the hotline, nor does it fund the creation or expansion of any services for pregnant women or mothers.

"We've got virtually two years ... before it would be beginning to be implemented to find whatever resources through the Department of Health would be required in order to continue the program and make it sustainable," Dotson said.

There were 2,963 abortions performed in the state in 2019, according to statistics from the Health Department.

"What happens if the appropriation never comes through," asked Rep. Deborah Ferguson, D-West Memphis. "What happens that these people are stuck requiring a phone call that there's no one on the other end to answer the phone?"

Dotson responded, "The Department of Health would be in violation of the law if we set the policy."

In response to a question from Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, Dotson said he would reach out to the Health Department before the bill is run in the Senate to determine whether it would be cheaper to establish the hotline in house or contract out the service.


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