The Only Way to Get Arkansas Legislators Out of the Exam Room Is To Take Them To Court

Arkansans have plenty of health needs their politicians should address — from the third highest maternal mortality rate in the U.S. to an opioid epidemic. Yet Arkansas politicians have spent their energies blocking a woman's access to abortion care with ever crueler means.

Before 2017, Arkansas was already a leader in the campaign to obstruct and hinder reproductive rights. The state tried to ban abortion at 12 weeks, a law that the ACLU fought and defeated. But many onerous restrictions remain. Arkansas forces a woman to make an extra, unnecessary trip to a physician to hear state-mandated information; then to delay care for at least 48 hours; and then to make another trip back to the provider to get her abortion. The state also bans abortion coverage in state insurance exchange plans.

This year, Arkansas lawmakers enacted a slew of new restrictions that practically prohibit access to abortion services. Here’s what they do:

  • Ban a medically proven abortion method. One measure bans the safe, medically-proven method that is used for essentially all abortions past the first trimester in the state. This is Arkansas lawmakers’ attempt to deny a woman access to the care she wants as her pregnancy progresses.
     
  • Allow a woman’s sexual partner (or abuser) to block an abortion. Another measure requires that the patient and her medical provider treat the embryonic or fetal tissue under the same law that directs disposition of the body of a family member who has died. A woman’s sexual partner then has equal say in what happens to that tissue, which means he must be notified of her abortion. This would effectively allow that partner — even an abuser — to block an abortion by withholding consent. This is a grotesque intrusion into a woman’s privacy,  and could well threaten her safety.
     
  • Demand medical records of a woman’s entire reproductive life. Another new restriction bans abortion unless the physician requests all medical records related to the patient’s entire pregnancy history — potentially spanning decades, and regardless of where she received pregnancy care, and in what language her medical records are written — and then devote undefined “reasonable time and effort” to obtaining those records. There is no medical justification for this intrusion into a woman’s privacy. Since abortion providers cannot possibly comply with such a sweeping mandate in all cases, this measure would limit their ability to provide care.
     
  • Increase the power of state regulators to shut down abortion providers.  Arkansas lawmakers also required that the state health department suspend or revoke the license of any facility providing abortion, for any violation of any rule, no matter how minuscule. No other types of health care facilities are subject to this type of medically unnecessary over-regulation.
     
  • Force doctors to give patient information to local police.  Arkansas has a robust state system for reporting any suspected abuse of minors. Nonetheless, lawmakers decided to increase the burden on abortion providers providing services for any patient under 17 years old. In all cases, even when there is no indication of a crime or abuse and where there is parental consent, the provider must report the young woman’s abortion to the local police, inform the police of where the patient lives, and have the police retrieve the tissue from the abortion to preserve it as “evidence.” This invasion of medical privacy does  nothing to enhance  public safety.  

Last week, along with our colleagues at the Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU of Arkansas, and Planned Parenthood, we filed two lawsuits challenging these five restrictions.

After last year’s Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which made it clear that a woman has the right to get abortion care with dignity and without needless barriers, one would think that state legislators would halt such efforts. Sadly, that hasn’t happened. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in just the first three months of 2017, lawmakers around the country introduced 431 measures that would restrict access to abortion care.

Every day, women in Arkansas and across the United States struggle to get the care they need as lawmakers impose new ways to shut down clinics and make abortion unavailable.  Arkansas women cannot afford to lose further access. They cannot afford to travel hundreds of miles to get to the nearest clinic. And they should not have to endure invasions of privacy and violations of their autonomy.

A woman’s decision to end a pregnancy is hers to make with her family, her faith, and her doctor. We will fight politicians who not only seek to shame, punish, or burden women for making these decisions, but also try to push care out of reach.

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Laten

Where does the Bible reject abortion. In fact the bible supports infanticide at the direction of God in the form of ripping them from the womb and smashing their heads. God chose to drown the unborn and the innocent in genocide of an undeserving human race. It states specifically that life begins at first breath. God instructs the development of a potion which results in miscarrage for the cheating wife. I don't understand those who use the Christian religion as an an arguement against abortion. Have they even read the Bible.

Anonymous

You are an insensitive piece of shit if you believe every woman who gets an abortion is for infanticide. You are a moron and have no idea what women go through. It's our choice if we want to carry that life. Not every child is conceived in a loving relationship, and to punish a woman for being raped is absolute bullshit. If you've never had to face those issues or delicious, then shit the hell up. It's too bad your mom didn't abort you, as it would be one less moron in this world. Get off your high fucking horse. It's not about you. It's about the person who's pregnant to make that call. Not some ass hole who has nothing to do with it

Anonymous

Really! You are a very unbalanced person and need to willingly commit your self to the nearest Behavior Unit ASAP.

Anonymous

Thank you for championing for women and people who can't do it on there own. Keep up the good fight!

Anonymous

And this is why I donate to you every month. Thank you for keeping our rights intact!

Pat Vinson

Thank You ACLU,

Anonymous

Christians are all psycho cunts.

Anonymous

Baby murderer? Are you f***ing kidding me?! Tell me why you support an administration that doesn't give a shit about women who USED TO BE BABIES? In the eyes of Pro Birth supporters you only matter if you're a white, male heterosexual fetus and after that you might as well not exist at all.

wingsio

I read some articles on this site and I think your blog is really interesting and has great information. Thank you for your sharing.
wingsio

Anonymous

Can we try for a law that says in order to protest an abortion or must first sign up to foster or adopt an unwanted child? (Same for anyone wanting to vote for abortion restrictions.)

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