A new Arkansas law makes the most common second trimester abortion procedure a felony, and could allow rapists to sue their victims.
Arkansas Act 45 makes dilation and evacuation abortions punishable by a $10,000 fine or six years in prison.
Ninety-five percent of women use dilation and evacuation for a second-trimester abortion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It takes about 30 minutes, and can be performed in a hospital or clinic.
Abortion rights activists said outlawing a relatively painless procedure will crack down on all second-trimester abortions in general.
"The ban on dilation and evacuation, or D&E, is essentially a ban on second-trimester abortion," Dr. Daniel Grossman, director of Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health, told Revelist. "...The alternative procedure — medication abortion — forces women to take repeated doses of drugs until they deliver the pregnancy."
Most women, he added, "strongly prefer to have a quick procedure, like D&E, rather than inducing labor to have an abortion."
The law also prevents doctors from doing what they think is best for their patients.
Dilation and evacuation abortions are proven to be safer than inducing labor, but the law would still prevent doctors from prescribing them.
"Outlawing a common and medically proven method of abortion procedure prevents doctors from providing the safest care to their patients," Dr. Kristyn Brandi, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, told Revelist. "It completely violates women's ability to make autonomous decisions about their health."
Arkansas Act 45 allows exceptions only when the woman's life is at risk or she would suffer "substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function" if she carried her pregnancy to term.
Will Bond, a Democratic state senator from Little Rock, took issue with these limited exceptions.
"The way [the act] was drafted, I had concerns that the women's health exception is way too narrow, and there's no exception for rape and incest," he told The Daily Beast.
That's right — there's no exception for rape or incest.
Second-trimester abortions are often performed on rape or incest victims who need time to process their trauma before undergoing surgery. But the Arkansas law prevents them from using the most common second-trimester abortion procedure.
A clause in Act 45 also allows women's family members and spouses to sue abortion providers. And that means, in cases of spousal rape or incest, abusers can sue to stop their victims from getting an abortion.
"There is zero part of me that understands why a rapist or someone who got someone pregnant against their will, maybe incest, would have any right in that decision," Karen Musick, co-founder of Arkansas Abortion Support Network, told The Daily Beast. "I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that there would be anyone who thinks otherwise."
Abortion rights advocates are already preparing to fight the law.
Andy Mayberry, the representative who introduced the law, said it is based on similar legislation passed in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and West Virginia. In four of those states, lawsuits prevented the legislation from ever being enacted.
Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are prepared to file similar suits.
"The ACLU has been open in our intent to challenge this if necessary," Holly Dickson, legal director of the Arkansas ACLU, told The Daily Beast. "I'm sure that’s what we'll do this time around. Again."