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Arkansas Governor Signs First of Its Kind Measure Forcing Doctors Who Provide Abortion Care to Investigate Their Patients

Measure would ban abortion based on woman’s personal, private reason for ending her pregnancy-- Fourth measure signed by Governor Hutchinson restricting access to abortion this session

(PRESS RELEASE) Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) today signed a measure forcing health care providers to investigate their patients before they are able to receive a safe, legal abortion.  HB 1434--which is the first measure of its kind--would force a health care provider to gather medical records related to a woman’s “entire pregnancy history” before she is able to receive constitutionally protected health care services—ostensibly to investigate the woman’s motives for ending her pregnancy. The bill would ban abortion until the physician has spent an undefined amount of “time and effort” obtaining her complete medical records, potentially causing an indefinite waiting period.  These new measures are an effort to force doctors to police the reasons a patient is seeking abortion care, as the bill also criminalizes health care providers who knowingly perform an abortion sought on the basis of the sex of the fetus.

 

Governor Hutchinson has already signed three other measures restricting a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion this legislative session, including a ban on a safe, proven method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester. 

“Health care providers should never be forced to investigate patients for the reasons behind their personal, private decisions,” said Lourdes Rivera, Senior Vice President, U.S. Programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “When a woman has made the decision to end a pregnancy, she needs high-quality health care, not an interrogation. 

“Measures of this kind are fueled by harmful and racist stereotypes about women of color.  The Center for Reproductive Rights has serious concerns about an abortion ban that will discourage women from getting the health care they need and unfairly targets communities of color.  We vow to stand with Arkansas women until their rights are fully respected and protected.”     

HB 1434 is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2018. 

While a handful of other states currently ban abortion based on a woman’s private, personal reason for ending her pregnancy, Arkansas’ is the first forcing health care providers to investigate a woman’s reasons in addition to her entire pregnancy-related history. Like the bills before it, this measure masquerades as an effort to prevent sex discrimination, but is simply another thinly veiled attempt to restrict a woman’s ability to get the health care she needs.  In fact, measures of this nature exacerbate discrimination by discouraging women from obtaining reproductive health care, particularly among minority communities that already face substantial barriers to care. Moreover, they target communities of color, particularly Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities, and are fueled by stereotypes and misinformation. 

Arkansas actually has one of the poorest track records in the country when it comes to protecting the health of women and their families, with politicians in the state consistently working to restrict a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion.  In addition to passing a blatantly unconstitutional abortion ban—which the Supreme Court refused to review in early 2016, thereby ensuring the measure will remain permanently blocked—Arkansas also passed the most anti-choice measures of any state in 2015. 

 

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