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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Paul Rawlings: Taxpayer cost of litigating Arkansas abortion laws

  • Unconstitutional abortion laws will do nothing but cost taxpayers
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  • In 1958 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cooper v. Aaron: "The State of Arkansas could not pass legislation undermining the Court's May 17, 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional." For more than 50 years since that ruling the citizens of Arkansas have paid millions of taxpayer dollars in legal expenses litigating the unconstitutional segregation laws passed by the Arkansas legislature.
    In 1989 Arkansas taxpayers in all 75 Arkansas counties were ordered by the court to pay $70 million a year to help finance 6 magnet schools in Little Rock. You do the math –24 years at $70 million a year –the amount Arkansas taxpayers in Cleburne County and the other 74 counties have paid to the Little Rock School District. No one knows when or if this $70 million yearly payment will end.
    In 2012 Judge Price Marshall approved an attorney fee of $875,000.00 to civil rights attorney John Walker to be paid by the Pulaski County Special School District.
    On March 26, 2012 a three judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Arkansas taxpayers must pay $69,972.00 to lawyers for the Little Rock School district and $149,417.50 to the civil rights lawyers who had intervened in the case.
    The most recent payment in the ongoing Little Rock school desegregation case was on July 23, 2013 when U.S. District Judge Price Marshall ordered taxpayers in the North Little Rock School District to pay attorney John Walker an additional fee of $87,500.00.
    In March 2013 the Republican controlled Arkansas Legislature passed Act 301 entitled the "Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act" banning abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. Governor Beebe vetoed the bill because it was in conflict with Roe v. Wade and unconstitutional. The Republican legislature overrode the Governor's veto and Act 301 was scheduled to become law August 13, 2013.
    The format for Act 301 and 16 other states was prepared by "American United for Life," a Washington D.C. group. Daniel McConchie Vice-President of American United said: "..we work with legislators to pass laws that will essentially spark the right kind of court challenge."
    Arkansas Act 301 was promptly challenged in court and in May 2013 U.S. District Judge Susan Weber Wright issued a temporary injunction preventing Act 301 from becoming law until she rules on its constitutionality and stated: " the law was likely to be declared unconstitutional."
    State abortion laws in Arizona, Oklahoma, Idaho, Iowa and Kentucky have been held unconstitutional.
    In this great country it is your privilege to support unconstitutional laws on segregation, abortion or any other subject and vote for lawmakers who enact such laws.
    Enacting and litigating unconstitutional segregation laws cost Arkansas taxpayers millions of dollars in legal expenses over the past 50 years millions which should have been spent improving the educational system.
    Page 2 of 2 - Will Arkansas taxpayers repeat the segregation experience and follow Republican lawmakers to federal court and spend millions of taxpayer dollars litigating unconstitutional abortion laws for the next 50 years?
    Will 50 years of litigation on abortion bring people on both sides of the abortion issue closer together or will they become more bitter and polarized?
    Will 50 years of litigation on abortion have any effect on the number of abortions?
    Some people believe "unwanted pregnancies" are the problem not abortion and they further believe society would be better served if we spent our time and millions of taxpayers dollars making pregnancy a "purposeful decision" not a "mistake."
    Americans in 25 years eliminated polio and have made AIDS a treatable disease instead of a death sentence.
    If Americans would spend their time and resources reducing the number of "unwanted pregnancies" as they did on eliminating polio and making AIDS a treatable disease we would certainly reduce the number of "unwanted pregnancies" and make abortions unnecessary.
    Will Republican make government smaller by spending millions of taxpayer dollars enacting unconstitutional abortion laws and litigating those laws for the next 50 years? Reduce your taxes?
    Should the Arkansas legislature make the decision when and under what circumstances an Arkansas woman may exercise her constitutional right to have an abortion or should that be the decision of the woman involved, her doctor and her family?
    (Paul Rawlings of Heber Springs contributes each week to the editorial pages of The Sun-Times)
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