LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As groups on both sides of the abortion battle continue to duke it out in federal court, police departments across the Natural State learned more about one of the laws at the center of the lawsuit.
A 2015 Arkansas law requires doctors performing abortions on girls 14 and younger to take certain steps to preserve the fetal tissue and notify the police department where every patient lives. The new 2017 provision raised the age requirement to 17.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 15 to 17 year olds account for three percent of all abortions in the U.S. compared to only point two percent for those younger than 15.
“I’m not sure this process is that efficient,” said Lt. Steve McClanahan with the Little Rock Police Department. “Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Lt. McClanahan, along with several other police officers across the state, admitted he had to read up on the law.
“My biggest concern as a police officer, and I used to work juvenile crimes, child abuse cases and sexual abuse, is to have those cases reported where a crime really did occur or the doctor believes one occurred,” Lt. McClanahan said. “It didn’t even say really how that notification would be made. If it’s a phone call, what kind of report would be generated or anything.”
Lt. McClanahan argues there’s already a system in place to report child abuse, the statewide hotline operated by the Crimes Against Children Division of Arkansas State Police. Doctors and police are mandated reporters.
That’s one of the reasons why the ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Little Rock doctor.
“There is a system in place to adequately protect minors who are suspected of being victims of child abuse,” said Bettina Brownstein, an ACLU attorney.
While the ACLU argues the law intrudes on a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, police believe its intentions are important but too vague.
“Really focus our efforts where they need to be focused, and that’s when a crime is occurring,” said Lt. McClanahan.