How Arkansas's Abortion Law Affects High-Risk Pregnancies

by Jenn Rose

In yet another step backwards, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 1434 into law on Wednesday. In addition to reducing access to reproductive choice for all women, the new Arkansas abortion measure affects high risk pregnancies disproportionately. The law was ostensibly enacted to ban sex-selective abortions, which studies show are not a thing in the United States. The U.S. population has been holding steady at 50.8 percent female, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Arguments for sex-selective abortion bans are not only factually erroneous, they're often racist against Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans.

The law requires doctors who are requested to perform an abortion to ask their patient if they know the sex of the fetus. If they do, the doctor must then request the medical records of the patient. There is no directive regarding what the doctor should do with those records, which implies that the request is meant simply to intimidate women, rather than gain any useful information. Incredibly, the bill purports to be aimed at stopping discrimination of women, whom it says are being aborted more often, stating that "Women are a vital part of our society and culture and possess the same fundamental human rights as men," which is hilarious, considering the fact that Arkansas refused to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The bill's text also expresses concern that sex-selective abortion could lead to an "increasing population of young, unmarried men." Poor dudes.

The new law is of particular concern for women with high risk pregnancies, because sex-selective abortion could be medically necessary when a fetus carries a genetic disorder that's linked to a certain chromosome. And multiple pregnancies might require multifetal pregnancy reduction, a procedure that terminates one or more fetuses to ensure the safety of another. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, multiple pregnancies have an "increased risk of prematurity, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, slow language development, behavioral difficulties, chronic lung disease, developmental delay, and death" for fetuses, and put mothers at risk for "hypertension, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and postpartum hemorrhage."

Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the law is its redundancy; Arkansas law already prohibits abortion after 20 weeks gestation, which is when most women find out the sex of their fetus (the law is based off of the false claim that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks). Arkansas has several other restrictive abortion laws on the books, requiring patients to receive counseling that discourages abortion and be told that abortions can be reversed (which is obviously inaccurate). Arkansas also prohibits telemedicine abortions, a process where doctors can administer abortion pills during video conferences with women in rural areas who have limited access to medical care. And the state also allows women's husbands or legal guardians to sue them to prevent an abortion. Tell me again about those fundamental human rights, Arkansas.