In 2017, Arkansas passed House Bill 1566, a law which regulates the burial and disposal of fetal remains. The law passed as a reaction to criticism of Planned Parenthood from the right, which were largely based off of misleading (and potentially illegal) propaganda videos created by evangelical fundamentalists; similar laws were also passed in Texas and Indiana. Now, the ACLU is taking on the law, noting how certain sections of the policy would compel rape victims to seek permission from their rapists before terminating a pregnancy caused by the rape.
"The intent of the bill was to separate the unborn baby from medical waste, as previous to the bill the baby could be disposed with medical waste," said Republican Rep. Kim Hammer, who sponsored the bill.
"After that baby is dead, what do you do with the body? You can't just throw him away," added Sheila Pursell, the director of Northwest Arkansas Respect Life. "He's not a piece of trash. He's not road kill just dispensed in a garbage dump."
But those on the left argue that this excuse is an elaborate rationalization that allows for horrific restrictions on abortion that ultimately punishes women who seek to terminate their pregnancies, for whatever reason. The ACLU is filing the lawsuit to battle the extreme rules, which would require "a fetus to be disposed of in a manner consistent with existing state law that says when a family member dies, other family members have to agree on what to do with the body," according to CNN.
According to the ACLU, this means that “[A] woman’s sexual partner ... has equal say in what happens to that tissue, which means he must be notified of her abortion.” Since HB 1566 has no exceptions for rape, domestic abuse or incest, women or clinics would be forced to contact their abusers who would be granted the legal right to physically coerce their victims again."
HB 1566 is expected to go into effect this month. Along with Planned Parenthood, the ACLU is hoping to halt the law, which “can be read to bar medication abortion and miscarriage care using medication abortion methods, and enacts unclear and burdensome requirements that will delay or deny women access to care and stop physicians from providing it.”
The suit also challenges rules that force minors to disclose information about their abortions to parents, even in situations of familial abuse.
The hearing on this issue begins this week.
[Photo: Getty Images]