Arkansas is turning into a modern day Handmaid’s Tale

Arkansas won’t stop passing laws that make getting an abortion more difficult.

So far this year, Arkansas has passed more anti-abortion legislation than any other state in the country. Its most recent legislative success found a way to take the choice out of the woman’s hands entirely. HB 1566, or the Tissue Disposal Mandate, forces women seeking abortions to obtain the biological father’s permission before she can have the procedure. The bill passed without any dissent in Arkansas’s house of representatives and is scheduled to go into effect at the end of the month.

However, there are organizations fighting back. The ACLU of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a lawsuit against four bills passed in Arkansas that they claim “enact unclear and burdensome requirements that will delay or deny women access to care and stop physicians from providing it.” The hearings began this week and the judge is expected to rule before the laws would take effect.

You’re watching an episode of “In Session,” a weekly series exploring interesting policy changes on the state level.


PHOEBE GAVIN, THINKPROGRESS: Back in 2009, Arkansas passed a bill that gives the parents of a deceased child equal rights over how the child’s remains are handled. Well this year, the legislature passed an extension of this law that includes fetal tissue. So what does this mean?


GAVIN: It means that women who seek abortions need permission from the biological father before they can undergo the procedure. According to the bill’s primary sponsor, part-time legislator, part-time pastor Kim Hammer, the bill was only created to protect the fetus’s remains

REP KIM HAMMER: “The intent of this bill was to separate the unborn baby from medical waste.”

GAVIN: But in fact, it goes much further than just medical waste. The Tissue Disposal Mandate doesn’t just give the biological father the legal standing to prevent the abortion, it requires him to agree before the woman can go forward.

Meaning if a woman has an abusive partner, a bad breakup, or a one-night-stand, she will be forced to get the man’s permission before she can get an abortion

Oh and of course, the law has no exceptions for rape or incest.

The bill passed Arkansas’ house and senate without anyone voting against it. It was signed into law at the end of March. If nothing changes, the bill is set to go into effect on July 30.


But, it’s possible that won’t happen. The ACLU of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights have filed a joint lawsuit against this bill and three other anti-abortion bills that passed in Arkansas in 2017. The suit argues that the laws impose ‘severe burdens on women’s constitutionally protected right to decide to end a pregnancy.’

RITA SKLAR, ACLU ARKANSAS: “They’re always just trying to come up with ways to invade a woman’s medical privacy and burden her right to abortion care.”

GAVIN: And it’s not just Arkansas trying to restrict access to abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in just the first three months of 2017, lawmakers across the country introduced 431 measures restricting access to abortion.

Abortion is undeniably legal, but lawmakers are looking for creative loopholes to keep care away from those who need it.