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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Susan Adams

Again and as always, thank you ACLU

Liberals hate A...

You sick, cowardly baby muderers. I wish all of you who support infanticide, that your mothers would have cut you to pieces before you could have been born the disgusting Liberals that you are. Anyways with changes coming to the Supreme Court composition these laws will soon be upheld. Thank me very much.

Anonymous

Typical pro-life response that includes a death wish upon living people. Hypocritical much?

JayTheB

You do know that Jesus hates you, don't you?

Anonymous

No, fuck you very much.

JayTheB

My comment was directed toward the twisted religious ravings of Liberals hate A...

Anonymous

"Do unto others as I have done unto you" seems have eluded you.
What if you have a daughter who raped and left pregnant? Would you want her terrorized by her rapist? Perhaps even killed? Would you want her to bear the burden of being punished for a crime she had inflicted upon her? To see her pain and terror relived every minute of her life because men care more about a fetus than an innocent victim?
Please, think about that.
As someone who carried a dead child for weeks because she was physically assaulted and threatened by anti abortion protestors and prevented from accessing services because of being assaulted and nearly died and had to have emergency services...I had a total stranger shove a graphic picture of a dead fetus in my face, shove me IN THE STOMACH, and screamed "BABY KILLER" in my face, while trying to hit me with her sign..
15 minutes after my OB told me my desperately longed for baby was dead in my womb.
Think about it.

Anonymous

"Do unto others as I have done unto you" seems have eluded you.
What if you have a daughter who was raped and left pregnant? Would you want her terrorized by her rapist? Perhaps even killed? Would you want her to bear the burden of being punished for a crime she had inflicted upon her? To see her pain and terror relived every minute of her life because men care more about a fetus than an innocent victim?
Please, think about that.
As someone who carried a dead child for weeks because she was physically assaulted and threatened by anti abortion protestors and prevented from accessing services because of being assaulted and nearly died and had to have emergency services...I had a total stranger shove a graphic picture of a dead fetus in my face, shove me IN THE STOMACH, and screamed "BABY KILLER" in my face, while trying to hit me with her sign..
15 minutes after my OB told me my desperately longed for baby was dead in my womb.
Think about it.

Anonymous

To the Liberal Hate Spew-
You are a disgusting pile of hypocrisy. God does not approve of your vicious venom. Judge not-the lord is watching you too.

Ria

“I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that, that makes you pro-life.
In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t?
Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That is not pro-life. That is pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
Sister Joan Chittister, Benedictine Nun, Author and Speaker

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