A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the American Civil Liberties Union's suit to block several new anti-reproductive rights laws that have passed in Arkansas, which would impose severe restrictions on women's abortion access in the state.
The group has joined with the Center for Reproductive Rights to keep the laws from going into effect, starting at the end of July.
"Instead of protecting women’s health, Arkansas politicians have passed laws that defy decency and reason just to make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get an abortion," said Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "They’ve created burdensome bureaucratic hurdles that invade patient privacy."
The Tissue Disposal Mandate, or H.B. 1566, will make it illegal for a woman to terminate a pregnancy without informing the man who impregnated her. During Arkansas' legislative session, the provision was added to the state's Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which mandates that family members must agree what to do with a loved one's body after a death. The law would apply to women who become pregnant in cases of rape as well as women who have consensual sex.
The law also states that any man or woman must be over the age of 18 in order to seek an abortion. In the case of a 17-year-old girl who is impregnated by an 18-year-old, for example, the decision would be entirely up to the male.
In addition to H.B. 1566, Arkansas recently passed laws banning a medically safe and effective abortion method known as dilation and evacuation; restricting access to abortion based on the sex of the fetus; and requiring doctors to preserve fetal tissue and notify police after performing abortions on anyone under the age of 16. The ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights have strongly condemned the laws.
"Arkansas politicians have devised new and cruel ways to rob women of their right to safe and legal abortion this year," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to use the full force of the law to ensure these rights are protected and respected for all women."
In 2015, the Institute for Women's Policy Research ranked Arkansas as one of the worst states for women's reproductive rights.