Four laws restricting abortion access in Arkansas set to be challenged in court Thursday

A lawsuit by the ACLU is sending 4 new laws that came out of this year's legislative session to federal court.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The national spotlight has once again trained its focus on the state of Arkansas ahead of a hearing to decide if a group of laws restricting abortion access should be blocked before they go into effect on July 30.

Earlier this week, online publications such as Huffington Post and Bustle reported that one of the laws would require a woman to get permission from their male partner or worse, their rapist, before getting an abortion.

That law, H.B. 1566, connects to the Arkansas Final Disposition Rights Act of 2009, which states that family members have to agree on what to do with a dead person's remains. With the passage of H.B. 1566, that law now will include aborted fetuses into the discussion, meaning a woman could be required to tell the fetus's father that she intends to have an abortion.

But State Representative Kim Hammer, who introduced the bill, said that "left-wing" organizations have "hijacked" the true intent of this bill.

"It is intended just to make sure that the remains of that child, whether it happens in an abortion clinic or whether it happens in a hospital, whoever is licensed by the state of Arkansas, that the remains of that baby are treated with dignity and respect," Hammer said.

He added that when it comes to a stillborn child born in a hospital, parents are given the option to either cremate or bury their child's remains. Hammer claimed that the law would require abortions clinics to do the same.

"It was discovered that some medical institutions that are licensed for delivery or for abortion were taking the remains of the baby and were just treating them as medical waste," Hammer claimed. "They were putting the babies' remains in with other medical waste. Syringes, gloves, anything else that was dirty."

While Hammer wouldn't clarify which "left-wing" organizations he was talking about, some groups have been outspoken of the restrictive abortion laws. The group behind the lawsuits, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), say the intent is to "stop politicians from interfering in a woman's personal decision about abortion."

Rita Sklar, Executive Director for the ACLU of Arkansas, told us in a June statement that Arkansas politicians have "passed laws that defy decency and reason" in order to make it harder for women to get an abortion.

"They've created burdensome bureaucratic hurdles that invade patient privacy," Sklar said.

Groups involved in similar lawsuits in other states have said cremation and burial could cost as much as $400 per fetus, doubling the cost of the abortion.

Hammer said legislators discussed the additional stress this law could have on women when it passed unanimously. 

"Instead of going to a landfill, when women are going through times of emotional healing, I think it helps them to have that reference to go to," he said.

He said that under this law, a decision would have to be made about the fetus's remains, but that would decided by the mother.

But in an interview with Bustle, Hammer said that the father "was there at conception so he ought to be there through the whole process."

The three other abortion laws being challenged in court would ban the dilation and evacuation procedure, create new reporting requirements, and have doctors request medical records. The first two and Hammer's law are set to become law on July 30 while the fourth takes effect on January 1, 2018.

THV11 will be in the courtroom Thursday to give you the latest updates on any and all pending lawsuits.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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