AR Briefly

Bill requiring paid maternity leave from employers that cover abortion costs heads to Senate

By: - February 13, 2023 3:50 pm
Rep. Aaron Pilkington, Rep. Kendon Underwood

State Rep. Kendon Underwood (R-Cave Springs), right, talks with Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-Knoxville) on the House floor. (Photo Courtesy of the Arkansas House)

The Arkansas House on Monday approved legislation requiring companies that cover expenses for employees who seek out-of-state abortions to also provide 12 weeks of paid maternity leave.

Eleven states have passed paid family leave laws, according to the Center for American Progress.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, some national corporations and banks announced they would cover travel costs or the procedure itself for employees who reside in states where abortion is restricted.

Arkansas was one of several states with a “trigger law” that banned abortion almost immediately after the decision.

Rep. Aaron Pilkington (R-Knoxville) said he sponsored House Bill 1006 in response to “this circumvention of Arkansas’ ban on abortion.” It’s “blatant hypocrisy” for companies to “pay you to kill your child” but not offer paid family leave to women who want to keep their child, Pilkington said.

“These companies that say they believe in choice, say they believe in a woman’s right to choose, it’s not true choice if you incentivize one and but not incentivize the other,” he said.

Andrew Collins (D-Little Rock) was the sole lawmaker who spoke against the bill. Collins said that while he supports paid family leave, it’s a “heavy-handed, big government move” that’s invasive and an expensive policy. 

“I think paid family leave is a great thing and companies should offer it as much as possible, and we as a government could incentivize companies to do it, but using it as a punishment is the wrong way to go about it,” Collins said.

Pilkington responded that a child being “torn limb by limb” from their mother’s womb is invasive.

Pilkington is also sponsoring several other bills pertaining to pregnancy and postpartum health care, including HB 1010, which would require Medicaid to cover postpartum mothers for a full year after giving birth. 

The House passed HB 1006 with a vote of 80 yays, 12 nays and 2 present. It will next be considered by a Senate committee.

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Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.