A new law in the southern U.S. state of Arkansas has banned one of the safest and most common abortion procedures, and it will even allow rapists to sue their victims for having an abortion.
Arkansas Act 45, signed into law Thursday by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, bans the procedure of dilation and evacuation abortions, which effectively blocks abortions after 14 weeks, making it a felony that could result in a US$10,000 fine or six years in prison.
The law is slated to come into effect in the spring. Implementing a cutoff at 14 weeks of pregnancy will make it the earliest abortion ban in the country, as the current earliest one blocks abortion procedures after 20 weeks.
The procedure, which involves using surgical instruments to remove material from the womb, accounts for 95 percent of all second-trimester abortions. In the state of Arkansas alone, 683 of Arkansas’s 3,771 abortions in 2015, were done using the soon-to-be-banned procedure.
The same procedure is also conducted after miscarriages and during some medical tests. But Arkansas is seeking to criminalize only when the procedure is used in the case of an abortion.
“The D&E method is the most common method of second-trimester abortion in the United States and in the world,” Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told The Daily Beast. “It is the method endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Medical Association.”
Despite the overwhelming science surrounding dilation and evacuation abortions, Senator David Sanders, a co-sponsor of the bill who testified that the procedure is repulsive to bear, said, “You see a baby, an unborn life, a fetus, engaging in fight or flight reaction to the forceps going into the womb, trying to remove an arm, remove a leg.”
The bill’s other sponsor, Arkansas Representative Andy Mayberry, who is also president of the anti-choice organization Arkansas Right to Life, said that the model for the legislation is based on legislation that has been passed in six other states: Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and West Virginia.
In all but the last two, legal challenges have prevented the states from actually implementing the bill.
Perhaps the most abhorrent part of the bill is the ability for a woman’s spouse, parent or guardian, or health care provider to sue an abortion provider, stopping the abortion. This would even be the case with instances of spousal rape or incest.
“There is zero part of me that understands why a rapist or someone who got someone pregnant against their will, maybe incest, would have any right in that decision,” Karen Musick, co-founder of Arkansas Abortion Support Network, told The Daily Beast. “I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that there would be anyone who thinks otherwise.”
“The only option that anyone in Arkansas would have would be to leave the state,” Musick said.
Still, the new law will have to face its challengers: Holly Dickson, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said the group was aiming to file legal challenges similar to that in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
“It’s been challenged in those first four and been enjoined in every state where there’s been a challenge,” she told The Daily Beast.