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Arkansas Supreme Court ruling a ‘win/loss’ for pro-life groups

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–Calling a May 5 Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on abortion funding “a partial win and a partial loss,” Larry Page affirmed the ruling “did uphold Amendment 68 and the premise that we will protect unborn lives.” Page is executive director of the Arkansas Christian Civic Foundation.
The negative part of the ruling for pro-life advocates is that the court upheld the practice of performing abortions at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences for reasons other than to save the life of the mother. The exception applies specifically to “patients who either paid for their abortions or secured payment from a third-party provider.”
The Arkansas Constitution’s Amendment 68, adopted by voters in 1988, specifies “no public funds will be used to pay for any abortion, except to save the mother’s life.” It also states “the policy of Arkansas is to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution.”
A coalition including CCF, Family Council and the Unborn Child Amendment Committee filed suit in 1991, charging some abortions being performed at UAMS violated Amendment 68. In 1993, Pulaski County Chancery Judge Robin Mays ruled UAMS was prohibited from performing abortions “other than those to save the life of the mother … unless the patient pays the cost of such abortion in advance thereof, or furnishes sufficient guarantee of payment by a third-party provider.”
In a 6-0 decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld Mays’ ruling. Although Amendment 68 clearly prohibits the use of public funds to pay for abortions, the court ruled the amendment does not specifically “prohibit the performance of abortions at public facilities and by public employees.”
“In spite of the ruling, I am pleased that Amendment 68 is operative and public funding of abortions is still illegal in Arkansas,” noted Jerry Cox, executive director of Family Council. “It is unfortunate that UAMS, which is supported largely by public funds, will be able to remain in the abortion business.”
Although pro-life supporters “are disappointed the ruling didn’t go further,” Page said, “we’re pleased that they upheld that there was a violation of the constitution.”
“We can always follow up with enabling legislation where Amendment 68 is applicable,” he added, noting legislation to prohibit abortions at public facilities performed by public employees may be introduced during the state’s next legislative session in 1999.

    About the Author

  • Trennis Henderson

    Trennis Henderson is the national correspondent for WMU (Woman’s Missionary Union). A Baptist journalist for more than 35 years, Henderson is a former editor of the Western Recorder of the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Arkansas Baptist News state convention newsjournal.

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