The gradual chipping away of women's reproductive rights continues, with Arkansas passing one of the most restrictive laws yet. In an attempt to protect the rights of a fetus, Arkansas is putting women in very real danger by mandating that they must get their partners' permission to have an abortion. And while it could make things tough for a lot of women, this Arkansas abortion law is especially dangerous for abused women.
Say that a woman who has been a victim of domestic violence finally manages to escape from her abusive relationship, only to find out that she is pregnant with her former partner's baby. Some women might choose to discreetly end the pregnancy but under Arkansas' H.B. 1566, that will no longer be an option. The provision states that family members must agree on what to do with a deceased person's body, and guess what now falls under the category of "deceased person"? An aborted fetus.
So an abused woman who had finally broken free would have to get back into contact with her abuser, notify him that she was planning to have an abortion, and agree with him about what to do with the embryonic or fetal tissue. If she did not do this, she would not be able to access the procedure. And an abuser could technically withhold any agreement, effectively causing the woman to carry her abuser's baby to term. A look at domestic violence statistics shows just how dangerous this new law could be.
According to the Violence Policy Center, nearly three women are murdered by current or former male partners each day in the United States. If you've escaped an abuser, the last thing a state should do is mandate that you reengage with him, especially about such a fraught matter as a pregnancy you don't want to continue. And if you are trying to escape an abuser, having to tell him that you've gotten pregnant could very well keep you trapped in that relationship.
Another horrifying thing about this law? It could also apply in cases where a woman becomes pregnant by a rapist. A woman would have to contact her rapist, and essentially get his permission to have an abortion. Just let the reality of that situation sink in for a second.
The ACLU partnered with the Center for Reproductive Rights to take on the fight against the new law, filing a lawsuit that will have its first hearing on July 13. The ACLU decried the new Arkansas abortion legislation, which also contained a host of other restrictions, saying in a statement,
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.
In fighting for the safety of the not-yet-born, those in Arkansas have ignored the safety of the already-living.