State agency provides employees notice of anti-abortion march | Arkansas Blog

State agency provides employees notice of anti-abortion march



The e-mail above apparently went out on state time to all employees in the Workforce Services Department, which occupies a building on the mall behind a Capitol.

How nice: A warning that the mall will be closed to normal traffic Jan. 17 and no parking will be available.

In case employees weren't familiar with the March for Life, an annual demonstration against abortion that will be led this year by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson among others, the state e-mail came with an attachment of the news release about the march from its sponsor, Arkansas Right to Life, with details about speakers, legislative aims and more.

Oh, one thing:

Nobody works at the Capitol mall on Sunday. Parking is not a concern.

Is an "all" e-mail about an event that will have no impact on a state agency actually a use of state resources to publicize the anti-abortion demonstration, complete with a supporting political document? 

Some employees who received the notice interpreted it that way. It included such political messaging as this:

“We are grateful for the support of life that Gov. Hutchinson and our U.S. Senators Boozman and Cotton, the U.S. House delegation, and the Arkansas General Assembly has demonstrated in their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and protect women and their unborn children from the tragedy of abortion in Arkansas and our nation,” said Rose Mimms, executive director. “As soon as the undercover videos surfaced showing the callousness of Planned Parenthood executives and abortion providers to human life, discussing procurement of babies’ body parts in an attempt to satisfy their own greed, our Governor took action to deny Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s contract as a Medicaid provider,” Mimms said. “Our Congressional delegation has also condemned the actions of Planned Parenthood and have passed legislation to deny public funding of Planned Parenthood that will soon be on the desk of President Obama.”

To ensure that this practice will not happen in Arkansas, Arkansas Right to Life’s top priority in 2017 is the passage of the Ban on Dismemberment Abortion. An educational and petition drive on Dismemberment Abortion, also referred to as D& E, began in July of 2015 and continues until December of this year.

Perhaps when the gay pride parade marches past some state offices in the future, the agencies will distribute helpful notices of the weekend event and also include some news releases about equal rights for all. Those news releases of course should note how certain public officials (it so happens all those named by Right to Life) have been fighting equal rights.

Crowd question: Any other state employees get notices of the Sunday anti-abortion demonstration on state e-mail?

I've asked Daryl Bassett, director of the agency, about the use of department mail to distribute the March for Life news release and notice of the Sunday event. The response came from H. Don Denton Jr, general counsel of the department:

The email notification, including attachments, came from the State Division Building Authority, formerly the ABA. It was meant solely as an alert to any staff that might have been considering working on Sunday. Your premise below that “no one works on Sunday” is not always accurate. It is not unusual for DWS to have staff work on the week-ends, and such a significant impact to normal parking and traffic patterns needs to be disseminated. DWS routinely receives similar notices from the Building Authority when parking or traffic patterns are expected to be impacted. Where possible, DWS forwards these notices verbatim to staff regardless of subject matter. Never is such a notification to staff an endorsement of the planned event. 

I'm asking the Building Authority for further guidance of dissemination of this notice. I have asked Denton how the need for notice on parking required attachment of a political flyer. I've also asked for the department to tally up the number of hours worked on Sunday in January.

I've also asked if notices to state employees, including news releases, are planned for the Rally for Reproductive Rights at the Capitol Jan. 23.

UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, I heard back from a DFA spokesman.

The email was sent, as per procedure of DBA, to the heads of agencies whose operations may be affected by the event in question. In particular, employees working this weekend and on Sunday may have a difficult time finding parking. The email was sent as a courtesy notice to those agencies located in DBA-owned facilities. The attachment was included to provide additional information on the event. The message was not intended to promote the event itself.

In response to your question regarding similar notifications for events later this month, DBA will send a notification if it is informed in advance of the event and the event itself is likely to affect the operation of agencies located in DBA-owned facilities.

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