A New Bill Would Force Women to Tell Their Rapist If They Seek an Abortion

The battle over women's reproductive rights is raging across the country, but a particular fight in Arkansas is especially notable. Arkansas House Bill 1566, also known as the Tissue Disposal Mandate, was recently passed in the state's 2017 legislative session. The legislation states that any woman who does not consult with the man who impregnated her before seeking an abortion would technically be committing an illegal act.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has already filed a lawsuit against the new provision, which is linked to the Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009. That legislation states that fetal tissue from abortions is to be viewed as a "deceased" family member. Ultimately, the decision to dispose of the aborted fetus would have to be made between both the man and the woman involved, regardless of whether the conception was consensual and no matter the relationship between the woman and the man who impregnated her.

One of the biggest issues with the latest provision — which is already an egregious violation of women's reproductive rights and autonomy — is that it doesn't offer protections or exceptions. In other words, it would legally force rape survivors or survivors of incest to notify their attackers or abusers if they wanted to get an abortion. While the law does not require the male's consent, it is not hard to see how this requirement would make it impossible for many women to avoid breaking the law or further endanger the safety and lives of women who have already been victimized. The provision is set to go into effect on July 30, but the ACLU — which has a pending lawsuit against the legislation — plans to challenge the enforcement of the new abortion law until the matter can be resolved in court.

Already under the current Arkansas law, any physician who performs an abortion without notifying the woman's sexual partner could face criminal charges, which is one of the many reproductive bills activists are currently fighting to change in the state.