Banging My Head Against a Brick Wall, or, What the Arkansas?

By Kari R.

In case you haven’t heard, abortion rights were dealt a major blow this week when the Arkansas state legislature voted to override the governor’s veto and pass a bill into law that bans abortion at around 12 weeks.

The law, called the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act,” bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected with an abdominal ultrasound. This normally happens around 12 weeks into the pregnancy. To put this into perspective – that’s before the end of the first trimester (13 weeks and 6 days) and the fetus is roughly the size of your thumb.

This is the biggest legislative attack on abortion since before Roe v. Wade. In fact, it was Roe v. Wade that established the constitutional right to abortion access before the point of viability in a pregnancy (which, by the way, happens around week 24, or a full three months later.) Even the governor vetoed the bill because he felt it was unconstitutional. In a statement, Governor Beebe said “In short, because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability, Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. When I was sworn in as governor I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously.”

It is true that the majority of abortions occur in the first trimester. But having worked in an abortion clinic myself, I know many women who either 1. Don’t realize they’re pregnant, 2. Don’t have the money for an abortion, and/or 3. Can’t get an appointment between work or family schedules before 12 weeks. Combine that with travel costs/time and mandatory waiting periods, and you’re easily beginning to push the limits set by a state legislature that thinks they know more about your pregnancy than you do.

While Arkansas may now be home to the harshest abortion restrictions in the country, it certainly isn’t the first state that has seen legislative attacks on abortion access. 2012 saw the second highest number of anti-choice provisions enacted in a year on record. The highest was in 2011 with 93 provisions restricting abortion access enacted. However, these totals reflect provisions enacted during a calendar year, not legislative session. When considering the 2011-2012 legislative session, 136 anti-choice provisions were enacted.

These attacks must stop.

That’s why, at our 9th Annual National Young Feminist Conference March 23-25th, we will be discussing how YOU can take on your state capital to defend abortion access and reproductive rights. Without your voice at the capital, TRAP laws, transvaginal ultrasounds, and more “heartbeat” bills could spread across the country. We hope that you’ll be there to work with us on ending this War on Women!

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