Does new Arkansas law force women to get rapists’ OK before getting abortion? ACLU thinks so

Posted at 2:26 PM, Jul 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-12 14:26:49-04

Arkansas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, and a new one set to go into effect at the end of the month has drawn the ire of the ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block the law, which it says would force a woman who’s been sexually assaulted to get permission from her rapist before she has an abortion.

The law — known as House Bill 1566, or the Tissue Disposal Mandate — requires a fetus to be disposed of in a manner consistent with existing state law that says when a family member dies, other family members have to agree on what to do with the body. The ACLU and others interpret that as meaning that a woman would have to tell and get permission from her partner (or, if the woman is under 18, her family) if she wanted to get an abortion.

But the Arkansas state representative who sponsored the law said that’s not its intention. Rep. Kim Hammer, a Republican, told CNN affiliate KNWA the law aims to ensure that fetuses aren’t thrown away with medical waste.

“The intent of the bill was to separate the unborn baby from medical waste, as previous to the bill the baby could be disposed with medical waste,” Hammer said.

“After that baby is dead, what do you do with the body? You can’t just throw him away,” Sheila Pursell, the director of Northwest Arkansas Respect Life, told KNWA. “He’s not a piece of trash. He’s not road kill just dispensed in a garbage dump.”

But the ACLU, in a news release, said the “guise of embryonic or fetal tissue requirements” would let third parties effectively block a woman’s abortion.

Allowing someone else veto power over a woman’s abortion just doesn’t make sense to Amber Bell, an abortion rights advocate.

“If you’re going to have to get consent from somebody that didn’t get consent from you to have intercourse, then, I mean, that’s not fair,” Bell told KNWA.

Other laws

House Bill 1566 is one of four abortion-related measures the state passed this year that the ACLU has targeted in the lawsuit, which was filed late last month. Another — House Bill 1032, known as the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act — prohibits dismemberment abortion, also known as dilation and evacuation abortion, which is the most common procedure used in second-trimester abortions.

A clause in the law states that the husband of a woman getting such an abortion can sue the doctor to stop the procedure, as long as the husband is the “father of the unborn child.” And because there’s no exemption in the law for rape or incest, a woman’s rapist could theoretically file suit to stop the abortion.

Critics content it would let a husband sue a doctor to stop his wife from getting a dilation and evacuation abortion. The law makes no exception for cases of spousal rape.

Both new laws are set to go into effect on July 30.

Kansas and Oklahoma have both passed similar abortion laws, which are tied up in the courts, according to CNN affiliate KFSM. Ohio recently passed a measure banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.