As the New York state senate debates updating its dangerous, pre-Roe v. Wade abortion restrictions today, the neighboring Southern states of Arkansas and Missouri appear to be going head to head to see who can pass the most restrictive, possibly unconstitutional regulations on abortion access.
Yesterday, the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against Arkansas challenging four extreme anti-abortion provisions recently passed by state legislators, three of which will go into effect July 30. The most restrictive provision bans the exceedingly safe procedure called dilation and evacuation (D&E), which is commonly used during the second trimester to terminate a pregnancy. A similar law was passed in Texas earlier this month and will likely be ruled unconstitutional.
The other provisions named in the suit include the requirement that a patient's partner or other family member be notified of a woman's decision to terminate under the guise of seeking how to dispose of the fetal remains; establishes more burdensome reporting requirements to local police for abortions obtained by a young woman under 17; and forces doctors to invade a patient's privacy by requesting all medical records regarding her current and past pregnancies.
These laws "force women to endure invasions, investigations, and insults just to get the care they decided they need," said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, during a press call yesterday. "Arkansas politicians have matched cruelty with creativity to think up new and awful ways to stop women from getting abortion care."
Meanwhile, in Missouri, the governor forced lawmakers to return for a costly special session to consider more abortion restrictions. Yesterday, the St. Louis Dispatch reports, the House passed a comprehensive proposal that not only challenges a local ordinance that makes it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate against women who have had an abortion or used contraception, but also bans abortion clinics from asking ambulances to avoid using sirens or flashing lights. Additionally, the proposal gives the state attorney general the freedom to prosecute any violations of abortion laws without notifying local prosecutors, requires providers inform women of the risks of an abortion 72 hours before the procedure, and calls for tougher regulations for submitting fetal tissue to pathologists.
"Arkansas politicians have matched cruelty with creativity to think up new and awful ways to stop women from getting abortion care."
"According to data from the Guttmacher Institute, in just the first three months of 2017, legislators introduced 431 provisions that would restrict access to abortion services," the ACLU's Camp said yesterday. "Of course, not all of those passed but the point is that the pace of the attack has continued unabated. In seven states, there remains only a single abortion provider. And increasingly women are forced to travel long distances, sometimes out of state for abortion care. They're subject to delays in getting appointments and in navigating restrictions and … some women are just blocked off from accessing care entirely."
"It's just not the place of politicians to shame, punish or burden a woman for these decisions or to make care unavailable to her," Camp continued. "If we have drag these people to court to get them out of the exam room, that's what we're going to do."