LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A proposal to ban most abortions in Arkansas at 12 weeks into a pregnancy failed to clear a House panel Thursday after a conservative Republican voted against an amended version of the bill that eased some of the restrictions.
The House Public Health Committee voted 10-6 in favor of the new version of the bill, falling one vote short of the majority needed to pass the measure.
A previous version of the bill passed out of the committee last week, but the bill's sponsors, Sen. Jason Rapert and Rep. Ann Clemmer, both Republicans, earlier this week amended the measure, saying they wanted to address some concerns that had been raised.
The legislation would ban abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected with exemptions for rape, incest and risk to the mother's life.
The amended version adds exemptions in the case of a medical emergency for the mother and lethal fetal disorders that would be left up to the state medical board to define. It also replaces the criminal penalties for doctors who violate the restrictions with a revocation of their medical license.
Clemmer said the measure failed to garner enough support Thursday because some supporters were not at the meeting and others didn't like the new exemptions.
"A couple of people didn't like the exceptions for these lethal fetal disorders, so I think they were making a statement by saying, we shouldn't make exceptions even in those cases," she said.
Rep. Justin Harris, R-West Fork, who had voted for the bill last week said he reject the amended measure because he had not read it prior to the committee meeting and was confused by the process.
"Overall the amendment process isn't confusing, but on this bill it's been very confusing because there's been a lot of concessions made on this particular bill," he said.
Harris said he was concerned that the exemption for lethal fetal anomalies — which the bill leaves to the state medical board to define — was too broad. He said he also worried that doctors may make mistakes in diagnosing the fetal disorders.
"I'm not happy with the bill as is, but I will vote for it." he said.
House Democrats control a majority of seats on the 20-member public health committee. But proponents of the abortion restrictions have enough votes to pass the bill, according to Vice Chair Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, who said he was surprised the measure failed.
Committee Chairman John Burris, R-Harrison, said the bill likely will be reconsidered Tuesday.
Clemmer, the bill's House sponsor, said she doesn't plan to change the bill further.