Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas recently signed into law a bill that allows the husband of a woman seeking an abortion to sue his wife’s doctor, either for monetary gain or in order to place an injunction on the procedure, essentially allowing a man to refuse his partner access to an abortion. The new law also bans the most common and safest method for performing a second trimester abortion, essentially blocking all abortions after 14 weeks.
Under the new Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, even a husband who is abusive or has raped his wife can legally forbid her from obtaining an abortion, so long as the fetus is biologically his. It also gives the guardians of a minor the right to legally block her from accessing an abortion.
“What that’s getting at, really, is the autonomy and decision-making ability of a woman,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains to The Daily Beast. “The law itself is a major overstep into the doctor-patient relationship…This is taking it one step further to say that women are incapable of making these decisions on their own and on their own behalf.”
Nearly identical laws have been passed in six other states. The courts have struck this law down in all the states where it has been challenged—Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia. The ACLU has promised to challenge the new Arkansas law before it is able to go into effect later this year.
Arkansas has a mandatory 48 hour waiting period between a woman’s consultation with her doctor and the time she can access an abortion. There is currently only one clinic in the state that performs the second trimester abortion procedure banned in the new law.
This past September, a U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction temporarily prohibiting blocks on Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood after Governor Hutchinson ordered the Arkansas Department of Health Services to defund the healthcare organization.
Ensuring that Arkansas citizens have access to the resources of Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics is critical. According to the executive director of the ACLU in Arkansas, Rita Sklar, Arkansas “has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, contribution to the fact that nearly 1 in 5 people live below the poverty level.”
Media Resources: Huffington Post 2/2/17; Daily Beast 2/2/17; Feminist Majority Foundation 10/5/16.