Karen Fratti
July 11, 2017 8:02 am
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Arkansas just passed a handful of new abortion laws that could potentially close the three abortion clinics left in the state. As typical with garbage abortion laws, these provisions don’t outlaw abortion or the clinics, but instead force women to wait for an abortion or make absurd decisions about what to do with the fetal tissue. One of the laws is especially scary, since it requires that a woman get consent from the other parent before getting an abortion. Not only is that a breach of privacy, but it means that rape victims need their rapist’s consent for an abortion in Arkansas.

Can you imagine thinking this is a good or safe idea?

Not only would victims have to notify their rapists about an abortion, but the law applies to “miscarriage management” as well. Arkansas has tied up these new abortion restrictions in their preexisting Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which mandates that people have to approve of how to dispose of the “dead fetus” since the fetus wasn’t able to decide if it wanted to be buried or cremated. Yes, really.

There’s a hierarchy under the Final Disposition Rights Act, so normally a spouse or children get to decide how someone is buried if they don’t have a will; next comes parents and grandparents. Clearly, aborted fetal tissue doesn’t have a spouse or kids, so both of its “parents” would have to agree on how to handle the disposal of fetal tissue after the abortion. Since a person has to be 18 years old to make a decision about this kind of thing, if a minor wants a abortion, her parents, along with whoever the man is that impregnated her is, would have to give consent and decide what to do with the remains.

Arkansas’ abortion laws are unreasonable and extremely dangerous.

So let’s say, in the worst-case scenario, a woman notifies her rapist, as required by law, that she’s getting an abortion and plans on simply disposing of the tissue like regular people do. He could challenge that in court and force her to bury or cremate the remains all before she has an abortion in the first place. Hopefully all of that can be done in under 20 weeks, which is when Arkansas bans abortion. No abortion can be administered until a doctor makes a “reasonable effort” to contact and get consent. Because the woman’s assertion that she knows what she wants to do with her body is not enough.

These laws are obviously seek to force women to carry a pregnancy to term, whether she wants to or not. And they’re dangerous, since having to get consent puts the woman at the mercy of the men in her life or her parents, who could just as likely be abusers or disagree with her decision. The law is also so vague that doctors could face prosecution for noncompliance. So a doctor who doesn’t believe a woman should be put in danger and doesn’t make a “reasonable effort” (what does that mean anyway?) would be forced to stop providing medical abortions.

There are three clinics in the state that provide abortions, which means that 97 percent of counties in the state have no abortion providers (77 percent of Arkansas women live in those counties). In spatial terms alone, it’s already difficult for a woman to have access to safe abortion.

Luckily, the American Civil Liberties Union has already challenged these laws in court. The laws are supposed to go into effect on July 30, but the ACLU has a hearing on Thursday to ask a judge for a preliminary injunction so that the law can’t be enacted until the case is decided.

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