Arkansas Fetal Heartbeat Law is Dangerous, Discriminatory, and Sets a Terrible Precedent

Arkansas has made history this week by turning back the clock to historic and antiquated policies on reproductive rights. The legislature today overturned the governor’s veto of a bill that would ban abortions in the first 12 weeks if a "fetal heartbeat" were detected. Planned Parenthood has called the ban "the most intrusive" anti-abortion law in the country. It’s clear that regardless of the constitutionality of the bill, its violation of Roe v. Wade, or its dangerous and discriminatory politics, Arkansas will be setting a terrible precedent for all state legislatures looking to infringe upon reproductive choice.

Abortion, in spite of its common stigma, is incredibly common: one in three American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45. The overwhelming majority of abortions 91.7%, by the Centers for Disease Control’s count occur within that window of the first 13 weeks. According to the Washington Post’s analysis, that means 1 in 10 abortions would be banned in Arkansas. As low-income women and women of color are more likely to have difficulties receiving an abortion in these first weeks, this bill is not only infringing upon women’s rights but is also discriminatory. It’s also dangerous: restricting women’s access to abortion is not inherently a deterrent, but it is definitively a restriction on their access to safe medical care surrounding the termination of their pregnancy.

It’s clear that Arkansas womens' reproductive health and rights are severely damaged by this bill, but what are the implications of this bill’s passage for other states with similar legislation, like Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Virginia? Though the American Civil Liberties Union has already pledged to challenge the constitutionality of the bill, things don’t look good for the states where a majority of legislators could send women’s reproductive freedoms spiraling back in time.