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Bringing Down Arkansas' House of Cards

Becca Cadoff,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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April 17, 2013

Yesterday, we filed a lawsuit in Arkansas to challenge what was, for a short time, the most extreme abortion ban in the nation. Don’t be mistaken though, the Arkansas law is still outrageous – banning most abortions just a few weeks after a woman finds out she is pregnant. By passing this law, politicians are preventing a woman and her family from being able to make the most personal decision they might ever make.

In addition to being intrusive, this ban is also unconstitutional. Governor Mike Beebe knew that, so he vetoed it. But the legislature overrode his veto, insisting on building a fragile house of cards. So we’re going to court to blow down their house of cards, by revealing just how unconstitutional this law really is.

The sad fact is we shouldn’t have to be in court at all. Lawmakers shouldn’t pass these extreme measures that are designed to cut off women’s access to necessary health care.

What’s worse is that since Arkansas passed this bill, North Dakota passed a more extreme law, banning abortion even earlier in a woman’s pregnancy. And Alabama and Virginia have passed regulations designed to close women’s health clinics.

As bad as these abortion bans are, they are just part of the story. Extremist politicians across the country are trying to outlaw or eliminate access to abortion. They have introduced a flood of bills designed to interfere with our personal, private decision-making.

This is happening in Kansas where politicians meddle with the tax code, to punish anyone affiliated with abortion. It is happening in Indiana, where legislators are targeting one particular women’s health clinic with medically unnecessary structural requirements. And it is happening in Pennsylvania where politicians are attempting to deny women access to health insurance for abortion care. In this exciting time when we are expanding access to insurance across the country, some women are being shut out of the promise of health care reform.

It also continued to happen in Arkansas, where, if you can believe it, apparently politicians didn’t think they’d gone far enough. Legislation there could have forced service organizations that receive state grants (even if they are groups that provide support for rape survivors) to withhold information about abortion care. Though we claimed a small victory when this bill was rejected in committee today, its mere introduction is a gross intrusion on women’s health.

Each of these bills robs women of the services they need to make personal decisions about pregnancy free from political interference. We can’t lose sight of how far-reaching this trend really is.

We will do everything we can to protect women’s health. Litigation is sometimes our best option, but it is better to stop these bills before they even pass. We need to speak up – loudly. Now is the time for all of us to tell our elected officials to stop. Stop interfering in our private decisions. Leave these decisions to a woman, her doctor, and her family.

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