Arkansas Lawmakers Show – Again – That They Don’t Trust Women.
Politicians in my home state of Arkansas have shown yet again that they do not trust Arkansas women to make decisions for themselves. Arkansas already has some of the most restrictive laws around abortion in the country, and the 2017 Arkansas legislative session is apparently not finished introducing awful bills. For example, the Governor has already signed into law a ban on a common method of abortion that would also give a patient’s husband the ability to block her from obtaining an abortion.
Last Wednesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed another bill into law that prohibits a patient from obtaining an abortion if her physician thinks she has made the decision based on the sex of her fetus. Laws like this one unconstitutionally ban certain people from having abortions and make it more difficult for all people to access abortion. Instead of trusting women, Arkansas politicians are stigmatizing people who seek abortion, intimidating their providers, and furthermore perpetuating racist stereotypes, all while claiming falsely to protect women’s health.
Hurting patients by threatening their health care providers
Once an individual has decided to have an abortion, she should receive trust and support from her health care provider. But because of this law, a patient may have to face intrusive questioning from her physician about her personal life and decisions. This law threatens physicians with jail or losing their medical licenses if they don’t spend enough time prying into their patients’ lives. The law also enables other people in a patient’s life to undermine her personal decisions: her spouse, parent, guardian, and any of the patient’s previous health care providers can all sue a physician who provides an abortion that a patient seeks.
Politicians should not be second guessing people’s decisions about their own pregnancies, and should not place physicians in the impossible situation of having to violate their own patients’ trust or else risk jail or losing their medical licenses. Nor should politicians give other people the power to undermine a patient’s decision by giving them the right to sue her provider.
Perpetuating a racist myth about Asian American women
“Sex-selective abortion ban” laws rely upon and reinforce a racist stereotype that Asian American women prefer to have male children, and therefore are likely to decide to have an abortion when they find out that their fetuses are female. In reality, however, Asian Americans are actually slightly more likely to give birth to female than male children.
Yet politicians continue to explicitly point to East and South Asian countries rather than U.S. data when justifying these bans, as Arkansas did in the legislative findings of this bill. These laws imply that physicians should be more suspicious of their Asian American patients’ motives than other patients’ motives, and may result in especially distrustful relationships between physicians and their Asian American patients. However, politicians’ use of these racist stereotypes to justify abortion bans does not just hurt Asian American patients – it hurts everyone who might decide to have an abortion.
This bill is also unconstitutional
This law is an unconstitutional ban on abortion. A patient could be entirely prohibited from exercising her constitutional right to abortion if a physician even merely suspects that a patient is choosing abortion because of the sex of the fetus. Courts have repeatedly said that states cannot pass outright bans on certain categories of abortions before viability.
Additionally, just last summer the Supreme Court held that lawmakers cannot use false claims about protecting women’s health to justify laws making abortion more difficult to access. In this case, Arkansas politicians passed this bill with an absurd claim that it will protect women’s health by making sure abortions occur earlier in pregnancy, before patients know the sex of the fetus. This is a thin disguise of Arkansas politicians’ true unconstitutional motives of banning abortion.
We should not be fooled by politicians’ false claims about women’s health or by their misuse of antidiscrimination language. I am disappointed, once again, that Arkansas lawmakers are determined to distrust Arkansans’ decisions around their pregnancies.