A new law in the US demands that women seeking abortions must first gain permission from the man who impregnated them.
The bill means that women in the southern state of Arkansas will not be able to have a termination without a man’s approval. Exceptions will not even apply in the cases of rape – meaning that sexual abusers would have the power to refuse and potentially block their victims from ending a traumatic and unwanted pregnancy.
The law, which is set to come into effect at the end of July, includes foetuses in a rule stating that family members have to agree on what to do with a deceased relative’s body.
As a result, a woman would have to tell whoever impregnated her that she was planning on having an abortion, as they would need to agree on what to do with the remains before the procedure took place.
Theoretically, if the woman and man could not come to an agreement, the woman could not then legally go ahead with the abortion.
In addition, parents of girls under the age of 18 will be able to decide whether or not she can have an abortion.
A spokesman for NARAL Pro-Choice told HuffPost that the bill, known as H.B. 1566, is ultimately a way to “make it harder” for women to access abortion.
“While proponents of this plan claim it’s about embryonic-tissue requirements, the plain intention and unavoidable outcome of this scheme is to make it harder for a woman to access basic health care by placing more barriers between a woman and her doctor,” he said.
The NARAL representative said that laws such as this one are a way for anti-choice politicians in the US to push through their agenda without naming it as such.
“Some politicians have begun trying to make abortion functionally unavailable through insidious restrictions like this one,” he said. “Their intention is, of course, to make abortion unavailable by any means necessary.”
Civil and reproductive rights organisations in the US have been campaigning hard against the bill, which was signed into law in March. A lawsuit against it, mounted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights, will be heard on Thursday 13 July.
Women in Arkansas already have to jump through several hoops before they can access safe and legal abortions. The Independent reports that there are only four facilities providing terminations in the entire state, which spans an area of more than 85,000 square miles and has a population of nearly three million people.
Before having a termination, Arkansan women must also have state-directed counselling and wait 48 hours before the procedure is provided. Reproductive rights think tank the Guttmacher Institute states that this counselling often includes information designed to discourage women from continuing with the abortion.
To make matters worse, public funding is only available for abortion if the mother’s life is in danger, or in the case of rape or incest. The most basic health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act only cover abortion in the same cases.
“Every day, women in Arkansas and across the United States struggle to get the care they need as lawmakers impose new ways to shut down clinics and make abortion unavailable,” said the ACLU in a statement.
“We will fight politicians who not only seek to shame, punish, or burden women for making these decisions, but also try to push care out of reach.”
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