New Arkansas Bill Requires Women to Seek Partner’s Consent Before Having Abortion, Cases of Rape, Incest Included

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Under H.B. 1566, both the mother and the father of the fetus will have to agree on what to do with the fetal remains. (Drew Angerer/ Getty Images)

Women’s access to abortion services has been kicked even further out of reach thanks to a new Arkansas bill forcing women to notify and get consent from their sexual partners prior to undergoing the procedure.

H.B. 1566, a provision under the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, mandates that, in the event of a person’s death, family members must agree on what to do with the deceased person’s remains, according to The Huffington Post.

The newly passed bill includes aborted fetuses into the Act, however, meaning that both the mother and father will have to agree on how to handle the fetal remains. Thus, women will essentially be required to tell whoever impregnated them that they’re considering having a abortion.

The new measure, set to take effect later this month, has sparked disdain from several abortion rights groups who feel the bill is the legislature’s way of blocking women’s access to abortion services.

“With this package of laws, we’re definitely seeing a new, creative and especially cruel attempt by Arkansas to make abortion more difficult, if not impossible, for women to access — and to stigmatize and demean them in the meantime,” Hillary Schneller, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told NBC News.

The contested law would also apply to women impregnated by an abusive partner or those who become pregnant after a rape/sexual assault. If the woman is under 18 years old, the decision about what to do with fetal remains will be relegated to her parents or guardian.

NBC News reported that the fight against Arkansas’ tough new abortion laws is expected to play out in court Thursday, July 13, as the ACLU, the ACLU of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights will have a hearing for the federal lawsuit the groups filed last month.

Their suit also challenges three other measures that would “ban a safe and medically proven abortion method” known as “dilation & evacuation,” create invasive reporting requirements for police for abortions obtained by young women, and force doctors to request various medical documents from women seeking abortions without medical justification.

The advocacy groups are hoping to block the legislation until an official decision has been made on it.

Amid the backlash, State Rep. Andy Mayberry, who sponsored the contested bill, maintained that the legislation isn’t aimed at “at preventing abortions” or stopping the procedure for women in their second trimester.

“What we’re trying to do here is prevent one particularly gruesome, barbaric procedure from taking place,” Mayberry told NBC News, adding that he felt the bill was “written in such a fashion that I believe will withstand judicial scrutiny.”

Still, groups like the ACLU are vowing to challenge laws that threaten women’s reproductive rights.

“A woman’s decision to end a pregnancy is hers to make with her family, her faith, and her doctor,” members of the organization said 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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