LITTLE ROCK (AP) — An amendment to exempt cases of rape and incest from an anti-abortion bill in Arkansas would not make the legislation unconstitutional, state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said in an opinion released Wednesday.
The proposal, which aims to restrict abortion coverage offered by insurance providers under the federal health care overhaul, would not use any state money for abortions, so it wouldn’t violate the state’s constitution, the attorney general argued.
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, sought McDaniel’s opinion after lawmakers amended her bill to add exemptions for abortions in the cases of rape or incest — in what she called an attempt by opponents to kill the legislation. She and other supporters of the bill said the change could make the proposal conflict with Arkansas’ constitution, which bans public funding for abortions, except to save the life of a mother.
Her original proposal included an exemption for abortions only when a mother’s life is at risk. Bledsoe declined to comment Wednesday, saying she hadn’t had enough time to look over McDaniel’s opinion.
A House committee tabled the bill earlier this month.
Some opponents said Bledsoe’s measure went too far. Medicaid recipients can receive abortions in case of rape or incest. Gov. Mike Beebe said he would prefer to see a rape and incest exemption. He hasn’t said whether he’d veto the legislation should it come across his desk.