Hearing Begins for Legal Challenge to AR Abortion Regulations

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas case is in the national spotlight amid a court hearing on an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit targeting recently proposed abortion regulations in the Natural State.
Reaction to a Huffington Post article focused on one specific part of the regulations is making the rounds on social media Tuesday. Click here to read the article.
The ACLU is trying to stop a provision passed in Arkansas’ 2017 legislative session that would go into effect at the end of this month.
Our sister station KNWA reports that one of the regulations that has some people concerned is the need for third party consent for abortions. 
House Bill 1566, or the Tissue Disposal Mandate, was proposed by a representative out of Benton, Arkansas, who said the purpose of the bill was to give the fetus a proper burial. But according to the ACLU, there’s more to this bill, which could impact how women go about getting abortions. 
“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,” said Amber Bell, a pro-choice advocate. 
According to the lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the Tissue Disposal Mandate requires notice and consent of third parties prior to a woman’s abortion. This can place a difficult burden on the backs of women who may have otherwise chosen to terminate their pregnancy.
“Say the mom does go through with the pregnancy because the boyfriend, husband, or rapist said, ‘no you can’t have an abortion,'” Bell said. “Then who’s to say the mom’s going to take care of herself and the baby the way that it needs to be taken care of?”
Rep. Kim Hammer, the sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is not intended to give undue power to third parties, only to show respect to the unborn baby.
“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. 
Supporters of the bill have said it’s an important piece of legislation, because it aims to show respect for the yet unborn fetus. 
“After that baby is dead, what do you do with the body? You can’t just throw him away,” said Sheila Pursell, the Director of Northwest Arkansas Respect Life. “He’s not a piece of trash. He’s not road kill just dispensed in a garbage dump.”
The ACLU has taken issue with language within the bill. Specifically, the civil liberties union is concerned about the implications of the term “third party consent,” which representatives of the organization said isn’t specific enough. 
Rep. Hammer said this bill has no intent to give rapists a voice.
“It was 90 to 10 in the House. It was 34 to one in the Senate,” Hammer said. “I think that within itself makes a statement that nobody would ever think that this bill gave any authority who is as evil and wicked as being a rapist.”
Original story:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is fighting back after Arkansas passed a wave of new restrictions making access to abortions increasingly more difficult — and the organization is gaining national attention while at it.  
In an article published by the ACLU in June, “The Only Way to Get Arkansas Legislators Out of the Exam Room Is To Take Them To Court,” the organization argues that — as though regulations weren’t already strict before this year — they’ve been ramped up to new extremes in 2017.
The article cites the following:
Regulations before 2017:
  • The state tried to ban abortion at 12 weeks, a law that the ACLU fought and defeated.
  • Arkansas forces a woman to make an extra trip to a physician to hear state-mandated information, then to delay care for at least 48 hours, and then to make another trip back to the provider to get the procedure.
  • The state also bans abortion coverage in state insurance exchange plans.
New in 2017:
  • Ban on a medically-proven abortion method used for essentially all abortions past the first trimester in the state. 
  • Allow a woman’s sexual partner (or abuser) to block an abortion. The patient and her medical provider are required to treat the embryonic or fetal tissue under the same law that directs disposition of the body of a family member who has died. A woman’s sexual partner then has equal say in what happens to that tissue, which means he must be notified of her abortion. This would effectively allow that partner (even an abuser) to block an abortion by withholding consent.
  • Demand medical records of a woman’s entire reproductive life, potentially spanning decades, and regardless of where she received pregnancy care, and in what language her medical records are written. 
  • Increase the power of state regulators to shut down abortion providers. Arkansas lawmakers required that the state health department suspend or revoke the license of any facility providing abortion, for any violation of any rule, no matter how minuscule.
  • Force doctors to give patient information to local police. In all cases, even when there is no indication of a crime or abuse and where there is parental consent, the provider must report the young woman’s abortion to the local police, inform the police of where the patient lives, and have the police retrieve the tissue from the abortion to preserve it as “evidence.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights, ACLU of Arkansas, and Planned Parenthood, filed lawsuits in June challenging these restrictions.
The Huffington Post got a hold of the information put out by the ACLU and highlighted one specific issue through an article of its own, “In Arkansas, Women Now Need Permission From Men To Get Abortions.”
“Arkansas legislators clamped down on abortion access even further by passing a law that forces women to have their partners’ permission to access the procedure,” the article reads. 
This regulation is a provision under the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which declares that, when a family member dies, the other family members must agree on what to do with the body. 
The article goes on to explain that the new provision includes aborted fetuses, meaning both the mother and the father of the fetus will have to agree on what to do with remains, further meaning a woman would have to tell whoever impregnated her that she’s planning on having an abortion (this applies to women impregnated by abusive partners or after a sexual assault). 
The provision passed in Arkansas’ 2017 legislative session would go into effect at the end of July, though the ACLU and its ally organizations are putting forth a fervent effort to stop it.
“We will fight politicians who not only seek to shame, punish, or burden women for making these decisions, but also try to push care out of reach,” the ACLU said.
There first hearing for the lawsuit will be a hearing on July 13.

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