On Thursday, February 02 Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill prohibiting clinics in the state from performing dilation and evacuation procedures—the safest and most common procedures used in second-trimester abortions. The law makes no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
While second-trimester abortions are occasionally conducted by medically inducing labor, the dilation and evacuation procedure is widely regarded as a safer and less time-consuming procedure. Induced-labor abortions are more prone to complications, and they require an overnight stay in the hospital.
By making dilation and evacuation procedures illegal, Arksansas lawmakers have effectively blocked women in the state from receiving abortions after 14 weeks.
Similar laws have been passed in six other states, but legal opposition has prevented all but two of them from going into effect. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas are already preparing to challenge this latest law in court.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of Arkansas’ version of the bill however, is a clause that allows a woman’s spouse, parent or guardian to sue abortion providers for civil damages or injunctive relief, thereby preventing the woman from receiving an abortion. Under the terms of this clause, a woman’s husband could prevent her from terminating a pregnancy that was conceived in a marital rape. A woman’s father, meanwhile, could veto an abortion even if the pregnancy was a result of incest.
The injunctive relief clause robs women of their autonomy, treating them as children rather than adults capable of making their own healthcare decisions.
“The law itself is a major overstep into the doctor-patient relationship,” said Karen Musick, co-founder of the Arkansas Abortion Support Network in an interview with The Daily Beast. “This is taking it one step further to say that women are incapable of making these decisions on their own and on their own behalf.”
Even if this law had not contained the injunctive relief clause, it almost certainly would have faced intense legal opposition from civil rights groups. With this clause, the law may go down as one of the most reprehensible attempts to curtail women’s reproductive rights in American history.