ARKANSAS (KNWA/FOX24) — Now that Roe vs. Wade has ended, and the power to ban abortions has gone back to the states, many are watching the upcoming legislative sessions for what will happen next in states that had trigger laws.
Arkansas is one of 13 states that automatically banned abortions once Roe was overturned. Arkansas’ law only has an exception to save the life of the pregnant person.
Anyone who performs or attempts to perform an abortion can be charged with a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 dollars.
“As pro-life members of the legislature, we need to take it upon ourselves to put our money where our mouth is,” said Republican State Rep. Aaron Pilkington. He represents District 45, which now consists of Johnson County and part of Pope County.
He’s put forth three bills in the early filing period that would support pregnant mothers if passed.
“The paid family leave bill, which is a law that companies that choose to pay for abortions for employees to go out-of-state to circumvent Arkansas law would also be required to pay for 16 weeks of paid family leave,” he said.
The second bill requires Medicaid coverage for postpartum mothers for one year, and the third requires Arkansas Medicaid to reimburse for depression screenings for pregnant women.
“A large majority of women, according to the data, are depressed,” he said. “They have postpartum and so this is a way for them to get screened to get checked out to get the help they need.”
“Arkansas ranks the very worst in rates of postnatal depression,” said Clare Brown, an Assistant Professor in the College of Public Health at UAMS.
According to americashealthrankings.org, the national percentage of women with postpartum depression is 13.6%. Arkansas is listed as the least-healthy state at 23.2%.
“Oftentimes people who have mental health conditions are also at increased risk for substance use or alcohol use, which are known to impact infant outcomes,” she said.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports in 2020, Arkansas’ infant mortality rate was 7.38 with 260 infant deaths. That’s the third worst in the nation.
Brown said a law that breaks down barriers to mental health help would be a big win for Arkansas moms and babies.
“It’s very critical that we identify if someone has depression as early as possible so that they can get the help that they need,” she said.
“Pass these type of bills so that we can create the best state in the nation to have a child to raise a family,” said Rep. Pilkington.
There are free resources available for people struggling with mental health issues. The phone number 1-855-ARK-MOMS is specifically for pregnant people. You can also get help by going to AR ConnectNow or calling 501-526-3563.
The legislative session begins in Little Rock on January 9th.