That Arkansas Law Does NOT Allow Rapists To Sue Survivors Over Abortions — But It's Still Awful

Photo: Terry Smith Images/Alamy
Recently, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill that outlaws the common dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, used for many abortions in the second trimester. "The true horror of this bill...is that it's almost a ban on abortion after 14 weeks," Rita Sklar, the executive director of ACLU Arkansas, told BuzzFeed News. And yet another horror is that the law will allow a husband who rapes his wife to sue the doctor who provides her with abortion services. So there's that.

CNN reports that there is a clause in the law stating that a husband, provided he is "the father of the child" (except it's a fetus, FYI), can sue his wife's doctor to stop her access to the abortion procedure. And since the clause offers no exception for rape or incest, the husband can sue even if he raped his wife.

There was much initial confusion around this lawsuit clause, which was misinterpreted by many as giving the rapist husband the right to sue his survivor wife. This is not the case — but the reality is still terrible.

"If the woman was raped by someone else, the man can sue for an injunction or damages (against the doctor),” Case University law professor Jessie Hill told BuzzFeed News. Hill specializes in state reproductive legislation. “If the man raped his wife, he can sue for an injunction to prevent her from getting an abortion,” Hill explained, adding that the husband will not be allowed to receive any money from the lawsuit.

But the bottom line is that if the law goes through, husbands (rapists or otherwise) won't likely be suing Arkansas doctors, since those doctors won't be performing second-trimester abortions in the first place. Because according to the CDC, 95% of second-trimester abortions use D&E. Taking away that safe and basic procedure leaves pregnant women in their second trimester with only one abortion option: induced labor.

“I don’t know what a woman would do if she was forced to choose that,” Sklar said.
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