UPDATE: July 31 ― A federal judge has blocked H.B. 1566 from going into effect after the ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint against the bill. H.B. 1566 was meant to go into effect on August 1, 2017, but the judge’s ruling means it will be blocked until the litigation is settled.
PREVIOUSLY: 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.
A recently passed bill, H.B. 1566, is a provision under the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which states that, in the matter of a person’s death, family members have to agree on what to do with the deceased person’s body.
H.B. 1566 includes aborted fetuses into that Act, which means that both the mother and the father of the fetus will have to agree on what to do with fetal remains, thus requiring a woman to tell whoever impregnated her that she’s planning on having an abortion. Both parties will have to agree on what to do with the remains.
This law could also apply to women impregnated by abusive partners, and those impregnated after a sexual assault. (For women under the age of 18, the decision about what to do with the fetal remains will be deferred to her parents or guardians.)
A representative for NARAL Pro-Choice told HuffPost on Monday that H.B. 1566 is essentially a way to “make it harder” to access abortion.
“While proponents of this plan claim it’s about embryonic-tissue requirements, the plain intention and unavoidable outcome of this scheme is to make it harder for a woman to access basic health care by placing more barriers between a woman and her doctor,” he said.
Experts say that personhood laws like this one this are a sneaky way for legislators to push an anti-abortion agenda without necessarily calling it such.
“Some politicians have begun trying to make abortion functionally unavailable through insidious restrictions like this one,” the NARAL representative said. “Their intention is, of course, to make abortion unavailable by any means necessary.”
The provision recently passed in the state’s 2017 legislative session and would go into effect on at the end of this month ― but the ACLU is fighting back.
The civil rights organization partnered with the Center for Reproductive Rights to file a lawsuit against H.B. 1566, and is hoping to freeze the legislation until a decision has been made. The first hearing for the lawsuit will be on July 13.
“Every day, women in Arkansas and across the United States struggle to get the care they need as lawmakers impose new ways to shut down clinics and make abortion unavailable,” members of the ACLU said in a statement.
“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.”