AR Briefly

Arkansas committee OKs required paid maternity leave from employers that cover abortion costs

By: - February 9, 2023 5:10 pm
Smiling pediatrician showing digital tablet to mother and baby in exam room

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A proposed Arkansas law would require companies that pay for employees to receive abortions in other states to also provide 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

The bill passed the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee unanimously on Thursday and will go to the House floor for a vote.

Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-Knoxville) said he decided to sponsor House Bill 1006 after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and left access to abortion in the hands of the states. Arkansas was one of several states with a “trigger law” that banned abortion almost immediately after the decision in June.

Some national corporations — including Kroger, Uber, Starbucks and several banks — subsequently announced that they would cover travel costs or the abortion procedure itself for employees who live in states where abortion is restricted.

Pilkington said some of these companies do not offer paid family leave, which he called “hypocrisy.” He said the bill would give women the choice that corporations said they supported.

Rep. Jeff Wardlaw (R-Hermitage) asked Pilkington if he knew of any examples of this “hypocrisy” from Arkansas companies. Pilkington said he knew of “three large ones” but would not name them publicly.

“Obviously here in Arkansas, the most pro-life state in the nation, we cannot stop these companies from sending women into Illinois and other states to receive [abortions],” Pilkington said. “We can, though, force them to give the option of paid family leave.”

These companies have expressed neutrality and no opposition to the proposed policy after Pilkington contacted them about it, he said.

The 12-week requirement is based on the average amount of maternity leave offered in 11 other states, he said.

He added that the wide-ranging education bill announced Wednesday by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders also includes 12 weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers. The bill is expected to be filed next week.

No one spoke for or against House Bill 1006 at the committee meeting.

Pilkington is also sponsoring several other bills pertaining to pregnancy and postpartum health care.

  • House Bill 1010 would require Medicaid to cover postpartum mothers for a full year after giving birth.
  • House Bill 1011 would require Medicaid to cover depression screening for pregnant women.
  • House Bill 1035 would require women to be tested for postpartum depression after giving birth and would require insurance policies to cover the screenings.
  • House Bill 1102 would require all newborns to be screened for certain health conditions as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

None of the bills have yet been discussed in the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.