New Arkansas Law Allows Family Members to Sue Over a Woman's Abortion [Corrected]

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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a new bill into law that bans uterine dilation and evacuation, one of the safest and most common abortion procedures in existence, and allows family members of the woman to sue her abortion provider if the physician is in violation of the new law.

The dilation and evacuation procedure involves dilating the uterus and scraping tissue out of the uterus. This is used in about 95 percent of all second trimester procedures. The technique is also used after miscarriages to avoid infection and is necessary during certain medical tests. In the case of abortion, however, the Arkansas law makes the procedure a felony, effectively blocking abortions after 14 weeks.

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The bill’s co-sponsors are two men, Rep. Andy Mayberry and Rep. Dave Sanders, who, to my knowledge, have never personally received or considered receiving an abortion. Sanders, however, has seen abortion footage and found it disturbing. “You see a baby, an unborn life, a fetus, engaging in fight or flight reaction to the forceps going into the womb, trying to remove an arm, remove a leg,” he said.

Though prohibitive, Arkansas isn’t the first state to ban this procedure—the state follows in the footsteps of Mississippi and Louisiana, and similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama currently face legal challenges.

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If the abortion provider violates this prohibitive state law, a woman’s spouse, parent, guardian, or current or former physician is allowed to sue the abortion provider that would prevent the provider from administering such abortions again.

What about cases of rape or incest? Here’s what Mayberry told the Daily Beast:

Asked whether the clause would allow a father to sue in cases of spousal rape or incest, Mayberry told The Daily Beast that the “bill wouldn’t affect a woman seeking an abortion by any other method” than dilation and evacuation, and that the bill prohibited the father from winning monetary damages in the event of rape or incest. The bill would not, however, prevent the father from seeking injunctive relief to stop an abortion under these circumstances.

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The law is expected to go into effect this spring.

Correction: This post originally quoted a Daily Beast article that contained an inaccurate explanation of the bill. It has been amended to reflect that, while family members can sue abortion providers, the law does not enable them to sue to prevent an abortion.

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Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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