The assault on women’s access to health care in Arkansas has escalated exponentially. In fact, the Arkansas legislature is passing so many bills that restrict women’s health that Arkies are saying the state is #NotMyArkansas. But it’s not just about Arkansas — what’s happening there is a microcosm of what’s happening across the country.
So Many Abortion Restrictions
Going into this year, Arkansas already had at least 10 different types of abortion restrictions, including a 20-week abortion ban. On top of all that, the state legislature has passed a whopping six new anti-abortion bills in 2015. The worst of the bills passed in Arkansas this year would:
- Double the forced delay for a woman to access safe, legal abortion to 48 hours — one of the longest mandatory delays in the country.
This creates serious barriers for women who will have to take time off of work and arrange for travel and childcare over the course of multiple days. The clear purpose of this bill is to make the process more burdensome and more costly, and to further shame a woman for her personal medical decisions.
- Severely restrict access to medication abortion, an extremely safe method of abortion early in pregnancy — and the only procedure available at two out of three of the health centers in the state.
This law forces doctors to ignore medical research and use an outdated protocol for medication abortion. The medication abortion restriction, together with the forced 48-hour delay, could require four physician visits for medication abortion and would ban its use after seven weeks of pregnancy.
- Attack Planned Parenthood patients.
Arkansas lawmakers decided to cut off all public funding for abortion providers, affiliates of abortion providers, and anyone who refers women to abortion providers. This move is aimed at blocking money Planned Parenthood has received for sex education and STD-prevention programs.
- Take out the exception to Arkansas’ current parental consent law for victims of incest, rape, or sexual abuse at the hands of the parent.
On top of that, it forces a minor who cannot get her parent’s permission to file a petition in the courthouse closest to her home, which can jeopardize her privacy, especially in rural areas of the state where everyone knows everyone else in the community.
- Put words in doctors' mouths.
This bill would require doctors to give state-mandated, medically inaccurate information to women that includes overblown health risks and the statement that it may be possible to reverse the effects of a medication abortion — so-called “abortion reversals” — that could be harmful to women’s health. See more about it in our “FDA Hypocrisy” section…
The sheer number of new restrictions would hit any state hard — in fact, we’re seeing waves of bills like these in several other states. But what makes the story extra maddening is that, in a study of all 50 states’ health care policies known to improve the health and well-being of women and children, Arkansas is tied for last place for women’s health indicators. In fact, there are only three health centers in Arkansas that provide safe, legal abortion. The restrictions passed this legislative session could severely restrict access at all of those locations.
Did you catch that bit about making doctors tell patients about “abortion-reversals”? These “reversals” have no basis in science and are not supported by medical evidence. There have been no clinical trials, and there is no objective data to support the idea. Furthermore, it has not been tested for safety, effectiveness, or the likelihood of side effects. As members of the Arizona section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have written, these “reversals” are based on junk science. That’s why ACOG doesn’t support it.
Meanwhile, also this year, Arkansas enacted a law requiring abortion providers to follow an outdated FDA protocol for medication abortion that is more than 14 years old. This old protocol is also more expensive, has a higher risk of side effects, and requires more health center visits than the evidence-based protocol that is widely used right now.
Yes, you read that correctly: Anti-abortion politicians in Arkansas are pushing outdated drug regulations to restrict abortion while also pushing unregulated “abortion reversals.” They can’t have it both ways!
Let’s be clear: These claims about “abortion reversals” are not based in sound science. The groups behind these claims are the very same people who claim that rape can’t lead to pregnancy — and whose real agenda is to ban abortion.
The Bigger Picture
The restrictions in Arkansas are just six of 53 provisions approved this year by a slew of state legislative chambers that restrict access to the full range of reproductive care for women, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The anti-abortion attacks in the states aren’t slowing down. Politicians are not medical experts, yet they have written these laws as part of a broader effort to end access to safe, legal abortion across the country.
Arkansas lawmakers are focusing on the wrong priorities for women, and the wrong priorities for Arkansas. It’s time to fight back. Keep abreast of ways to get involved with national advocacy by signing up for our email alerts.