Arkansas Women's Rights

A women’s suffrage rally on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in 1917 celebrating passage of a bill to allow Arkansas women to vote in primary elections. Gov. Charles Brough can be seen standing in the front row, wearing a black tie and white jacket
Encyclopedia of Arkansas

An event taking place Friday in Helena will delve into the role Arkansas played in helping women get the right to vote in the U.S. The 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920 and the Delta Cultural Center is marking the 100th anniversary with a discussion of the women’s suffrage movement in the state.

Center Curator Drew Ulrich says it’s a complex history that eventually led to Arkansas ratifying the federal amendment. But, as was the case elsewhere in the country, there were racial and economic overtones.


An anonymous scientific survey conducted on the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville campus to measure the incidence of nonconsensual sexual contact revealed that 31 percent of women sampled reported being victims. Such contact includes campus rapes and sexual assaults as well as unwanted sexual touching.

The survey was conducted at the urging of an Arkansas legislator raising awareness about widespread sexual violence on college campuses, and that Arkansas is among more than a dozen states that do not teach comprehensive sex education in public schools — including what constitutes sexual consent.

Further illuminating the widely-reported UA survey, a female student who claims she was sexually assaulted carried around a bed sheet for weeks, raising alarm.

Gwen Combs at the Women's March for Arkansas in January 2017.
Combs Campaign.

Gwen Combs, one of four Democratic candidates in the 2nd Congressional District primary, has secured an endorsement from the National Organization for Women. NOW describes itself as the “largest organization of feminist grassroots activists in the United States.”

In a statement to the Combs’ campaign, the president of the Arkansas NOW chapter said, "Since 1966, NOW has worked to empower women at work, at home, under the law, in health choices and as equal citizens. Gwen's steadfast leadership demonstrates that she will prioritize full equality for women and girls if elected."

This Thursday women in Arkansas's media world launched the #morethanababe hashtag in response to a local radio show's Babe Bracket that ranks TV journalists based on looks. Governor Asa Hutchinson previously went on program and said "everybody enjoys it” but has since released a statement saying he was not defending the gimmick.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

One year after the Women's March drew thousands to the streets nationwide, including in Arkansas, demonstrators again made the journey to the Arkansas State Capitol to let their voices be heard. Though this year's March On, Arkansas! March to the Polls and ensuing Rally for Reproductive Justice had numerous callbacks to the previous march, including many signature pink hats, there was a marked shift in tone. Legislators, candidates and community organizers urged the public to channel their dissatisfaction into votes for progressive politics. 

Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns 1869-1920.
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. 2015.

February marked the 100th anniversary of Arkansas recognizing women’s right to vote – at least white women, in primary elections – but a historic milestone nonetheless.

KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with Bernadette Cahill, author of Arkansas Women and the Right to Vote: The Little Rock Campaigns 1868-1920 published by UA Press and the Butler Center for Arkansas studies.

Listen in to hear how Arkansas women built a movement; why primary elections were targeted; and the state’s place in the national women’s suffrage movement.

Butler Center for Arkansas Studies / Central Arkansas Library System

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to proclaim February 7 as “Women’s Primary Suffrage Centennial Day” during an event Tuesday at the state Capitol.

One hundred years ago Arkansas lawmakers introduced legislation allowing women to vote in primary elections. Kathleen Pate, president of the non-profit Arkansas Women’s History Institute, says Arkansas was the first non-suffrage state to enact such a law, which, while progressive for its time, was still limited.

State Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley) watching from the Senate public gallery as his bill is debated.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

A bill to restrict a common form of second trimester abortions in Arkansas is now law. Governor Asa Hutchinson signed the measure banning a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D&E). According to the state Department of Health, it was the only procedure used for 18% of abortions performed in the 12th week of pregnancy or later in 2015. 

Organizers and state police estimates on the number of demonstrators at the state Capitol for the Women's March on Saturday ranged from 3,000 to 7,000. Take a look at some pictures of the march in the gallery above. The rally in Little Rock was one of a string of events held worldwide protesting the presidency of Donald Trump.

March for Life pro-life anti-abortion abortion
Talk Business & Politics

Forty-four years to the day after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, Gov. Asa Hutchinson told a couple of thousand marchers at the annual March for Life that he will sign a bill outlawing the most common form of second trimester abortion.

David Monteith / KUAR

Hoping to show solidarity with the Women’s March in the nation’s capitol, a large crowd gathered in Little Rock Saturday.

Thousands of people, many dressed in purple, chanted “Women united will never be divided,” and “This is what democracy looks like,” while marching down Capitol Avenue before a rally was held on the steps of the Arkansas Capitol.

Arkansas state capitol building.
Chris Hickey / KUAR News

An Arkansas legislative committee has voted to outlaw an abortion procedure that opponents call "savage" and "barbaric" while others deem it the safest way to end a pregnancy in the second trimester.

The proposal by a legislator who is president of Arkansas Right to Life would ban dilation and evacuation, also known as a D&E abortion. The measure passed the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on a voice vote Thursday.

Arkansas would be the third state to ban the procedure, after Mississippi and West Virginia. Similar prohibitions are on hold amid court challenges in other states.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling against a Texas abortion law has advocacy organizations in Arkansas evaluating their approach to reproductive rights in the Natural State.

State Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) speaking with Arkansas Department of Higher Education Dr. Brett Powell.
Jacob Kauffman/KUAR News

Arkansas lawmakers are trying to get a grasp on the incomplete picture of sexual assaults on college campuses. One legislative effort is in an early stage that will stretch until July of next year.

Hailing from the heart of the University of Arkansas system, Fayetteville, Democratic State Representative Greg Leding is leading the effort to analyze how Arkansas colleges deal with issues of sexual assault on campus.

“One of the reasons we launched this study was to drill down and find out what the students are seeing that maybe the rest of us aren’t,” said Leding.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland want to amend a lawsuit challenging Arkansas' abortion restrictions, including dropping a challenge to a law requiring abortion pill providers to follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

The governor’s Medicaid expansion plan picked up a last minute potential change intended to block insurance coverage for the Morning After and Plan B pills. State Senator Jason Rapert filed an amendment on Tuesday that requires Governor Asa Hutchinson to ask federal officials for a waiver that would stop Medicaid funds from going to the reproductive health medications.

State Senator Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow).
Arkansas Times

The governor may have found a solution to the Medicaid budget impasse caused by just 10 of the state Senate's 35 members in the form of a creative new use of the line item veto but he hasn't done it yet. Into the void steps some last minute finagling and fine tuning.

Morning After Pill

State Senator Jason Rapert told me Tuesday night and then announced to the public via Twitter that he's going to try and stop insurance plans under Arkansas Works from paying for The Morning After or Plan B pill.

U.S. Supreme Court
Wikipedia

The Supreme Court will not allow North Dakota to enforce a law banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The justices on Monday turned away the state's appeal of lower court rulings that struck down the 2013 fetal heartbeat law as unconstitutional. The law never took effect, and abortion rights supporters said it was the strictest anti-abortion measure in the country.

www.are.uscourts.gov

A federal judge has agreed to extend until March her order blocking Arkansas from enforcing new limits on the way the abortion pill is administered.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday granted the request by the state and Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which is challenging the new limits. Baker had initially blocked the new law from taking effect until Jan. 14, and both sides had asked her to extend that order until March 14.

A group rally against the bill at the Capitol today.
Nathan Vandiver

A federal judge is holding a hearing this week on an effort to block Arkansas' new law placing limits on the way the abortion pill is administered. U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker scheduled a hearing for Wednesday afternoon in the lawsuit by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The group has asked for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction against the law, which requires abortion pill providers to follow guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Republican Attorney General-elect Leslie Rutledge at KUAR during the 2014 May Primary run-off.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the state's overturned 12-week abortion ban.

An early version of the Atari classic Centipede.
Venture Center

Arkansas is in the midst of push to teach computer coding to students and the Venture Center in Little Rock hosted one pioneer programmer of Atari fame that claims Arkansas as home, Dona Bailey, on Tuesday night.

KUAR's Jacob Kauffman sat down with Dona Bailey before her Code IT talk in a conversation covering women in the early days of the industry and the increasingly entrenched place of video games in modern society.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and supporters
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR

A federal judge has ordered Arkansas to temporarily reinstate its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood after the state blocked funding over concerns about secretly recorded videos released by an anti-abortion group.

Planned Parenthood Asks To Continue Medicaid Services During Lawsuit

Sep 17, 2015

Planned Parenthood asked a federal judge Thursday for a temporary restraining order or injunction against the cancelation of its Medicaid contract in Arkansas.

U.S. Rep. French Hill after giving remarks at the Governor's Mansion to the Political Animals Club in 2014, prior to his election.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

Arkansas’s congressional delegation is returning to Washington D.C. this week after a late-summer recess and halting federal funds to Planned Parenthood is a priority. Central Arkansas’s U.S. Representative French Hill wants a moratorium on funding while an investigation is launched. But the freshman Republican isn’t yet drawing a hard line in the sand over the looming funding battle.

Kristy Carter
Malcolm Glover / KUAR

All this week, the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas, a statewide philanthropic organization, is hosting a series of activities to mark its major annual fundraising event.

The Power of the Purse luncheons in Central and Northwest Arkansas honor women’s accomplishments and raise money for programs that are improving the lives of women and girls in the state. The final event is Friday in Little Rock. 

The Washington Post reports that Arkansas is one of 10 states where important legal fights are being waged over abortion rights. 

Last week, Attorneys for two Little Rock abortion providers asked a federal judge to strike down a new Arkansas law that bans most abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Polaris Project

Last week, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Christopher Thyer, announced that a Little Rock man, alleged to have been a pimp and trafficker, was convicted in federal court on one count of sex trafficking. 

It was a first for his district, saying "It had been there for quite some time, and the biggest reason some of these cases are coming forward is awareness." 

Thyer says awareness is on the rise, but many people don’t know that sex trafficking could be occurring in their area.