Arkansas law could force women to notify abusers of their abortion

The tissue disposal legislation is due to come into effect on July 30.
The tissue disposal legislation is due to come into effect on July 30. Photo credit: Getty, file

In just three weeks' time, it will become illegal for the women of Arkansas to seek an abortion without consulting the person who impregnated them, even if they are their rapist, unless a lawsuit can bring down the law change.

The law will give "parents" equal rights over tissues disposed of during an abortion, the lawsuit claims.

Opponents of the law say the Bill's vague wording will allow men to deny women the right to an abortion by refusing to consent to the disposal of embryo or foetal tissues. There will be no exceptions. Survivors of rape or incest will have to notify their abuser of their abortion, opponents of the law claim.

The legislation has already passed through the state's legislative session.

If the lawsuit fails, tissues from abortions will be legally seen as deceased family members. As such, the decision on how the tissue is disposed of will have to be made with both parties involved.

American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas (ACLU), who is bringing a lawsuit against the changes, says the law will have a chilling effect on providers. It argues providers will have to seek permission from the "father" (quotes the lawsuit's own) before the abortion is carried out to ensure the requirements of the tissue disposal law can be met.

Pro-choice campaigners argue women could be forced to break the law - presumably by seeking an illegal abortion - if they do not wish to interact with their sexual partner or abuser.

Battles over the reproductive rights of women are taking place right across the United States. In Arkansas alone, there are four new laws scheduled to come into effect this year. One would ban dilation and extraction during the second trimester; another requires providers to preserve foetal tissue from abortions performed on minors.

There are three abortion clinics in Arkansas. The two only outpatient clinics - Planned Parenthood Great Plains and Little Rock Family Planning Services - currently have a lawsuit underway challenging a law that closes abortion clinics for any breach of state law, regardless of how minor the offence.

The tissue disposal legislation is due to come into effect on July 30.

Right to Life campaigners say the regulations protect women. Pro-choice campaigners say they place excessive burdens on women and will lead to "irreparable harm".