Arkansas Law Could Require Women to Get Their Partner’s Permission for an Abortion

Pro-choice protesters in Washington, D.C. Photo: 2015 The Washington Post/Getty Images

On Thursday, a preliminary hearing will take place in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Arkansas State Medical Board. The suit was filed last month in response to four abortion restrictions set to take effect in Arkansas at the end of July and early next year, NBC reports. And one law in particular is drawing ire from pro-choice activists.

House Bill 1566, also known as the Tissue Disposal Mandate, amends the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which requires family members to agree on the proper way to dispose of the body of a deceased relative, according to local station THV11. Thanks to the passage of HB 1566, fetuses would be lumped into the same category as dead relatives, meaning that in theory a woman would need her sexual partner’s permission (or, if she’s younger than 18, her family’s) before she can get an abortion. “This would effectively allow that partner — even an abuser — to block an abortion by withholding consent,” the ACLU claims in its lawsuit.

Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, added that providers would have to make sure a woman had said permission — i.e., was in compliance with the law — before performing an abortion, which could further delay the process. “And abortion is a time-sensitive procedure,” she noted.

Representative Kim Hammer, who sponsored the bill, said it was intended to “separate the unborn baby from medical waste,” and to keep a woman’s partner in the loop. “He was there at conception so he ought to be there through the whole process,” he said.

Another measure included in the lawsuit, House Bill 1032, bans dilation and evacuation (or D&E) abortions — a safe and extremely common medical procedure. According to Schneller, the bill would “essentially end access to second-trimester abortions in Arkansas,” as almost all of them are performed using the D&E method.

There’s also a clause in HB 1032 that says that, if a woman is getting a D&E abortion, the fetus’s biological father can sue the doctor to stop the procedure. It makes no exception for cases of rape, marital rape, or incest. The two other laws included in the ACLU’s suit require doctors performing abortions on minors to save the fetal tissue in case police need it as evidence, and to get several additional medical records from the patient, NBC reports.

“We’re definitely seeing a new, creative, and especially cruel attempt by Arkansas to make abortion more difficult, if not impossible for women to access — and to stigmatize and demean them in the meantime,” Schneller said.

Arkansas Could Force Women to Get Permission for Abortions