The 2021 legislative session is in full swing, and lawmakers are considering a raft of harmful legislation that would turn back the clock on civil rights, weaken our democracy, and block people from abortion care.
These aren’t the only bad bills we’re fighting this session, but they are the worst of the worst – and it’s critical that legislators hear our strong, united opposition to these measures.
Make sure to read our updated advocacy guide and reach out to your representatives now to tell them to vote “no” on these harmful bills.
Attacking Reproductive Health Care
Arkansas legislators have introduced a raft of laws aimed at outright banning abortion care or pushing reproductive health services out of reach.
- Senate Bill 6 (Abortion Ban) – SB 6 would ban abortion in all cases except to save the life of the patient, a brazenly unconstitutional measure proposed in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade.
- Senate Bill 85 (Medically Unnecessary Ultrasound) – SB 85 would force people seeking abortions to undergo and view a medically unnecessary ultrasound for the sole purpose of shaming and discouraging them from care.
- House Bill 1024 (Punishing Pregnant Women) – HB 1024 creates a new offense of threatening to introduce a controlled substance into the body of a pregnant person. It would punish pregnant women for threatening to use a controlled substance. Not only would this law punish speech, it would also criminalize people who struggle with substance use disorders.
- House Bill 1402 (Bans Telemedicine Abortion Care) – HB 1402 imposes medically unnecessary restrictions on medication abortion, including banning Arkansans from obtaining services related to medication abortion through telemedicine.
- House Bill 1408 (Medicaid funding) HB 1408 restricts Medicaid funds for all direct or indirect care or counseling for any provider that also provides abortion services.
- Senate Bill 289 (Healthcare Refusal) – SB 289 would allow any medical provider – defined so broadly to reach all staff at a hospital, nursing home or clinic– or any insurance company to refuse to provide services if they object to on the basis of conscience, including referrals or even providing information. This bill would turn the Hippocratic oath on its head and allow for discrimination on many bases, including marital status, disability status, interracial relationship, sexual orientation or gender identity, race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religious belief.
Making it Harder for People to Vote
After historic turnout in the 2020 election, some Arkansas politicians are doubling down on efforts to make it harder to vote with measures that would disproportionately impact voters of color, older and rural voters, as well as low-income communities.
- House Bill 1112 (Voter ID) – HB 1112 would disenfranchise thousands of Arkansas voters who lack a government-issued photo ID by taking away their ability to vote by signing a sworn affidavit. An ACLU analysis found that thousands of eligible Arkansas voters used this option in 2020 to cast a ballot and make their voices heard.
- Senate Bill 12 (Absentee Voting & Polling Place Changes) – SB12 is another flagrant attempt to make it harder for people to vote by eliminating the requirement that election officials notify voters of polling place changes within 15 days of an election, and shortening the timeframe in which absentee ballots are mailed to voters.
Infringing on First Amendment Rights
Arkansas politicians have been trying to criminalize panhandling for years, only to be blocked by the courts. Now they’re trying again with an even more sweeping attack on freedom of speech that requires people to obtain government permission before exercising their constitutional right to free speech via charitable solicitation.
- House Bill 1260 (Register to Speak) – HB 1260 would allow municipalities to require people to register with their local government before soliciting a charitable contribution.
Worsening Mass Incarceration
Arkansas is experiencing a mass incarceration crisis, which has devastated communities of color and failed to improve public safety. These bills would double down on this failed approach.
- House Bill 1114 (Increase Fees on People on Parole) – People on parole often struggle to get back on their feet, find employment, and secure stable housing – all while paying fines and fees to the state. HB1114 would burden these individuals with even higher fees, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and incarceration that makes all Arkansans less safe.
- House Bill 1062 (Expanding Criminal Penalties) – Despite the overwhelming evidence that harsh penalties and long prison sentences fail to reduce crime, HB 1062 expands harsh penalties for people convicted of driving while intoxicated. Arkansas should be expanding access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, not doubling down on failed “tough-on-crime” policies.
Playing Politics with our Schools
More than forty years after the ACLU of Arkansas helped strike down an Arkansas law requiring equal time for "creation science" and evolution, Arkansas politicians are again trying to impose their extremist ideological agendas on our students and schools. In a country where it has been shown that few high school students know that slavery was the cause of the Civil War – let alone the ways in which racial injustice and oppression continue to shape American society – these bills would perpetuate the white-washing of history.
- House Bill 1218 (Penalties for Teaching Social Justice and Diversity) – HB1218 threatens to withhold state funding for schools who teach students about social justice and diversity. Our students should be learning more justice, fairness, and inclusion – not less.
- House Bill 1231 (Penalties for Teaching the 1619 Project) – HB1231 prohibits teaching of the 1619 Project, an ongoing initiative by the New York Times exploring the ways that slavery influenced America’s economic, cultural, and social institutions.