Earlier this week, when the Arkansas senate voted on a bill that would cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood, the final tally was one vote shy of success. (It was 17-to-9 and required 18 votes to pass.) Now, the state senate has voted again on the bill, and this time the measure passed 19-to-11.
The bill won’t affect funding for contraception coverage or abortion services in the state, since regulations are already in place to ensure that no federal or state funds are used for those services. What it will do, according to Reuters, is cut off “two state grants for HIV and syphilis prevention programs that it administers in Arkansas public high schools and reach about 2,000 women, men and teenagers.”
The bill also prohibits state funds from going to any group that contracts with abortion providers or offers referrals for abortions—language that has many women’s rights advocates concerned that domestic violence non-profits, rape counseling centers, and non-profit medical professionals could suffer as well.
Anti-choice efforts to defund Planned Parenthood appear to be increasing rather than decreasing, even though such efforts are thought to have played a role in the GOP’s failed bid to take over the White House and Senate in the 2012 elections. Rather than listen to the message being sent by voters, many conservative leaders and policy groups are instead doubling down on attacks against Planned Parenthood. Former Senator and failed GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently said in a fundraising email, “[W]e are going to push Republican congressional leaders to defund the monstrosity that is Planned Parenthood. Too many in the GOP want to ignore the millions of innocent lives that have been extinguished by this vile organization. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a winning issue. The polls prove it.”
Groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), and Americans for Tax Reform are eager to support any possible lawsuit against Planned Parenthood, nationally or at the state level. “Engaging our opponents at every level of the courts, our attorneys are seeking out ever-more effective means to block, inhibit, and bring to an end the efforts of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to make their fortune off the killing of children in the womb,” said ADF’s Alan Sears in a statement. “By God’s gracious mercies, and with the continuing gifts and prayerful support of friends like you, Alliance Defending Freedom is winning more and more battles for life—battles that are shaping the future of our laws and culture for your children and grandchildren.”
By voting on the bill a second time, anti-choice Arkansas senators have made it clear that they are in lock-step with national anti-choice interest groups, even though their extreme agenda goes against what their own constituents want. As state Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D-Little Rock) said in her testimony on the bill, “It is not about abortions, but it is about singling out one entity.”