Arkansas Law—Biggest Assault on Right to Abortion
Urgently Needed: Massive, Uncompromising Resistance

March 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


On March 6, Arkansas adopted the most restrictive state law on abortion in the United States—banning abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected by abdominal ultrasound. This is a direct challenge to Supreme Court decisions, which give women a right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy. One news article described this as "the first statewide victory for a restless emerging faction within the anti-abortion movement that has lost patience with the incremental whittling away at abortion rights."

Indeed, for the last 40 years, since Roe v. Wade was decided, there has been the relentless taking away of abortion rights AND this is part of a real effort to take this right away altogether.

This strategy of going for the most extreme restrictions on abortion rights has yielded a lot of results—to the point where women's right to abortion is, for all practical purposes, almost non-existent for many women.

Recent data, in fact, shows that 2012 was another historic year for restrictions on reproductive rights. According to the Guttmacher Institute, U.S. states enacted the second highest number of anti-choice restrictions in history. There were 43 abortion restrictions enacted in 2012. There were a record 92 provisions enacted in 2011. (Democracy Now!, January 14, 2013) This year, 278 such provisions have already been introduced in state legislatures that would restrict abortion rights in a number of ways. Another 18 measures would limit access to contraception.

Dozens of states have adopted all kinds of regulations that in effect create barriers that are sometimes insurmountable for women trying to get an abortion—like waiting periods, parental consent for minors, and ultrasound requirements. There have also been stringent regulations placed on many abortion clinics that make it harder for them to operate.

In Mississippi there is only one abortion clinic in the whole state. And now, this clinic, which relies on traveling doctors, may have to close because of a rule requiring doctors performing abortions to have visiting privileges at local hospitals.

Already there are 10 states that have time limits for abortions at 20 weeks into pregnancy. These 20-week laws also violate the existing standard of fetal viability. In many cases they are being legally challenged BUT they are in effect.

The stark reality is that despite its formal legality, abortion is more stigmatized, more dangerous to provide, and more difficult to access than at any time in the last 40 years.

Some abortion rights groups and legal experts responded to the Arkansas law with a basically "don't worry" attitude, saying that the law so deeply contradicts existing constitutional doctrine that it will probably be quickly voided.

But as Sunsara Taylor has pointed out:

"The right to abortion is not safe at all; it is extremely extremely endangered! And, in some ways, the most dangerous thing of all is that people refuse to face this!

"There is a reason the 'pro-life' movement is so puffed up these days. There is a reason they are introducing bolder and more restrictive and more vindictive legislation—openly insisting on no abortions and no exceptions, even for rape victims or to save the life of the woman. The reason is that they are winning.

"...If we do not reverse this trajectory soon—very soon—we will lose this right and condemn future generations of women and girls to FORCED motherhood, against their wills, and to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. And the only way to do that is through massive, uncompromising resistance—beginning now."

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