Arkansas Law on Unborn Child Protection Brings Uncertainty for Women's Health and Rights
Written by: Bonnie Chapman
The battle over reproductive rights has intensified with the passage of a controversial Arkansas law that could result in the prosecution of women who have an abortion. The law is intended to protect unborn children and provides provisions that allow individuals to solicit, advise, encourage, or coerce a woman to seek an adoption. Supporters argue that the law is necessary to ensure the equal protection of the law for all unborn children, while opponents fear it could lead to unintended consequences for women. The law defines an "unborn child" as the offspring of a human being from fertilization until birth. However, this narrow definition could create issues for women who use emergency contraception, such as Plan B, which prevents unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sex. It works by delaying or inhibiting ovulation and may also prevent fertilization or implantation of a fertilized egg. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), emergency contraception methods like Plan B can prevent up to 95% of pregnancies if taken within five days after unprotected sex. It is unclear whether the use of Plan B could constitute a violation of the law and result in a homicide charge for both parties involved. If Plan B were to become illegal, it could have significant consequences for women's health and reproductive rights. Without access to emergency contraception, women may be at a higher risk of unintended pregnancy and may face limited options for preventing or terminating a pregnancy. According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, access to emergency contraception reduces the likelihood of unintended pregnancy and can lead to a reduction in abortion rates. The study also found that restricting access to emergency contraception can have the opposite effect, with higher rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. There is limited data on the percentage of rapes that involve unprotected sex. However, research suggests that many sexual assaults do not involve condom use or other forms of protection, putting victims at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in five women and one in 71 men in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives. In cases of rape or sexual assault, condoms may not be used due to lack of consent or because perpetrators intentionally choose not to use them. The bill includes an emergency clause, stating that unborn children are at risk of being aborted in the state and are currently being denied equal protection under the law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The law is currently being reviewed in the house for approval, after being renamed from HB1174 to Act 63. Although the law includes apportion clauses, exceptions have been made to prevent the death of the mother during an ectopic pregnancy, or if all other reasonable options have been exhausted before resorting to an abortion or if a miscarriage occurs due to accidental or unintentional circumstances. In response to concerns regarding the law's impact on women's health and reproductive rights, the FDA has clarified that Plan B does not cause abortions. However, the implications of the new law remain unclear, and its potential impact on women's reproductive rights is a subject of concern for many. The law's narrow definition of "unborn child" and the potential consequences for women who use emergency contraception highlight the need for greater clarity and transparency in the ongoing debate over reproductive rights. The Arkansas law has sparked nationwide concern, with advocates for reproductive rights denouncing the potential harm to women's health and the uncertain legal status of emergency contraception. The National Women's Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union have both expressed concern over the law's impact on women's reproductive rights, and have called for greater clarity and transparency in the ongoing debate over reproductive rights.
The law's proponents argue that it is intended to protect the lives of unborn children and promote adoption as an alternative to abortion. Supporters of the law also point out that the law includes provisions that allow for exceptions in cases where the mother's life is in danger, ectopic pregnancies, and other medical emergencies. Opponents of the law, however, argue that it is a direct attack on women's reproductive rights and could lead to unintended consequences for women's health. They argue that the narrow definition of an "unborn child" as a fertilized egg from the moment of conception could lead to the criminalization of common forms of birth control, such as emergency contraception, and could result in the prosecution of women who have abortions. The law's ambiguity regarding emergency contraception is of particular concern. Emergency contraception, such as Plan B, is a critical form of birth control for women who have experienced unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. It is also a vital tool for victims of sexual assault who wish to prevent pregnancy. The potential criminalization of emergency contraception under the Arkansas law could have significant consequences for women's health and reproductive rights. The law's potential impact on women's health and reproductive rights has drawn the attention of civil rights organizations, healthcare providers, and women's rights advocates. Many of these groups have called for the law's repeal, arguing that it is unconstitutional and violates women's right to privacy and bodily autonomy. In response to criticism of the law, the Arkansas State Legislature has defended its constitutionality and its intent to protect unborn children. The legislature has pointed out that the law includes exceptions for medical emergencies, ectopic pregnancies, and other situations where the mother's life is at risk. The legislature has also clarified that the law does not criminalize miscarriages or unintentional pregnancy loss. Despite these clarifications, the law remains controversial and has been challenged in court. In July 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality and its potential impact on women's health and reproductive rights. The lawsuit argues that the law violates the constitutional rights of women by criminalizing abortion and could lead to the prosecution of women who have abortions or use emergency contraception. As the legal battle over the Arkansas law continues, women's health and reproductive rights remain in the balance. The potential impact of the law on women's access to healthcare and birth control is a subject of concern for many, and the outcome of the legal challenge to the law could have significant implications for women's rights nationwide.