A new law has passed in Arkansas that requires women who wish to have an abortion to gain permission from the men who impregnated them beforehand.
The controversial law is called H.B. 1566, or the Tissue Disposal Mandate, and it’s not as clear-cut as it sounds. Technically, the law is about what should be done with a person’s body after death, and orders that family members must
agree on what to do with the deceased’s remains. So what does that have to do with access to abortions?
The important part here is that the bill
has classified unborn fetuses as ‘deceased persons’. Since the law states that family members of the unborn fetus (the mother and father) must agree on what to do with the remains, this means that the mother will have to tell whoever impregnated her that she is planning on having an abortion. As they have to agree on what to do with the fetus, the father can of course object the abortion, and potentially be able to stop the procedure from happening.
Even in the case of pregnancy resulting from an abusive partner or sexual assault, the woman will be required to ask the father for permission. Regardless of the nature of their previous relationship, the father would still have a say in the fate of the pregnancy. As for physicians who perform these abortions, they would face criminal penalties if they do so without first asking the father how he would like to dispose of the fetal tissue.
The law also states that parents of girls under the age of 18 will be responsible for deciding the fate of their abortion. The entire state of Arkansas only has 4 clinics that offer abortions. Women cannot undergo the procedure until they attend a state-issued counseling session and wait another 48 hours before finally being able to have the procedure. Arkansas women’s access to abortions (especially young or abused women) will be dwindled even further with the installment of this law.
Many pro-choice advocates believe the law is simply trying to diminish access to abortion, but calling it something else. A representative for NARAL Pro-choice told HuffPo:
“While proponents of this plan claim it’s about embryonic-tissue requirements, the plain intention and unavoidable outcome of this scheme is to make it harder for a woman to access basic health care by placing more barriers between a woman and her doctor.”
The bill was signed into law in March and is set to be enforced at the end of July, but certain civil rights groups intend on stopping it in its tracks. Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights have launched a legal challenge against the bill.
The ACLU stated their position in a blog post
“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.”
The legal challenge against the bill will be heard Thursday.