During Arkansas’s 2017 legislative session, the state passed House Bill 1566, a bill ostensibly about the disposal of fetal remains. On its surface, HB 1566 is typical of fetal burial bills that have been passed by numerous state legislatures since David Daleiden released his deceptively edited (and perhaps illegal) Planned Parenthood videos. Since then, Texas and Indiana have both enacted rules or legislation requiring the unnecessary burial of fetal remains and Ohio is currently trying to impose restrictions on the disposal of fetal remains.
But, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, Arkansas’s HB 1566 goes well beyond mandating tissue disposal. According to a lawsuit recently filed by the ACLU, the language of the bill implies that victims of rape would be legally compelled to seek approval from their rapist prior to obtaining an abortion. CNN reports that the law, “requires a fetus to be disposed of in a manner consistent with existing state law that says when a family member dies, other family members have to agree on what to do with the body.”
Essentially, fetal remains would be subject to the same laws governing the disposal of a human body. Since, as Broadly points out, a fetus doesn’t have the typical legal chain of a spouse, followed by children and siblings, the decision would be left to both parents or even grandparents. Both parents would have to come to an agreement about disposal prior to an abortion. According to the ACLU, “a woman’s sexual partner then has equal say in what happens to that tissue, which means he must be notified of her abortion.” Since HB 1566 has no exceptions for rape, domestic abuse or incest, women or clinics would be forced to contact their abusers who would be granted the legal right to physically coerce their victims again.
In June, the ACLU, along with Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, filed a lawsuit over HB 1566 which is scheduled to go into effect later this month. The lawsuit argues that HB 1566 “can be read to bar medication abortion and miscarriage care using medication abortion methods, and enacts unclear and burdensome requirements that will delay or deny women access to care and stop physicians from providing it.”
Included in the lawsuit is a challenge to three other abortion restrictions enacted in Arkansas, including HB 2024, the Local Disclosure Mandate, that requires abortion providers to disclose the patient information of minors to the police regardless of “child-abuse reporting or criminal conduct.” The initial hearing for the ACLU’s challenge is scheduled for Thursday.