The Arkansas General Assembly reconvened earlier this month and the ACLU of Arkansas has been hard at work at the Capitol, advocating in favor of legislation that would advance civil rights and against harmful bills that would roll back the clock.
During every biennial legislative session, we’ve come to expect concerted attacks on people’s fundamental rights – but we’ve also seen opportunities for progress and reform. Banning the shackling of pregnant women and improving the treatment of people with mental illness in the criminal legal system are just two examples of positive changes that we’ve helped make despite strong political headwinds.
Here’s three things we’ll be watching for this year.
- Abortion Bans Are Back. Arkansas politicians wasted no time introducing a near total ban on abortion, their lattest attempt to intrude on people’s personal medical decisions and block them from care. This bill is brazenly unconstitutional, and if it becomes law, we’ll be ready to fight back in court – as we have time and again – to keep abortion safe and legal in Arkansas. Other bills seek to regulate care out of existence and we are fighting those bills as well.
- Attacks on LGBTQ Arkansans. Some politicians have vowed to pass laws to further restrict the rights of LGBTQ Arkansans. Arkansas should be passing civil rights protections to protect against discrimination – not perpetrating it. We have been working with partners and will be fighting for the rights and lives of LGBTQ Arkansans - and by extension, all of us.
- Opportunities for Bipartisanship on Criminal Legal Reform. For years, the ACLU of Arkansas has worked to combat the criminalization of poverty: whether that’s challenging modern-day debtors’ prisons or striking down unconstitutional panhandling bans. This year we’ll be pressing lawmakers to limit drivers’ license suspensions for failure to pay, preventing police departments from wrongfully seizing people’s property and possessions on the mere suspicion of a crime, and fighting the jailing of people for being poor.
With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting opportunities to gather in the Capitol, it is even more important to make our voices heard virtually by calling and emailing our representatives.
Make sure to read our updated advocacy guide for influencing the Arkansas General Assembly and advocating like your rights depend on it.