Abortion Bill Endangers Arkansas Women

Last month, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed SB6 into law: a bill to outright ban all abortions in the state of Arkansas except in the case of medical emergencies. The sponsors of the bill have also proclaimed that their intention in passing the bill is to send a case to the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade. This is despicable.


The subject of abortion has been an argument for decades, so I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind on their individual stance. Regardless of personal feelings on the matter, I think it’s important that everyone understand the danger of this legislation. A complete ban, with almost no exceptions, including no exceptions for instances of rape, incest, or fetal anomalies, will be devastating to the women in our state. It is arrogant and cruel to pretend to know the individual choices someone may have to make regarding their pregnancy. It’s something so very personal that I cannot comprehend why Arkansas legislators feel they should have a say.


The bill claims that new scientific evidence and personal testimonies document the massive harm that abortion causes to women, but they fail to cite any actual evidence. On the contrary, it is universally acknowledged by medical professionals that abortions are one of the safest medical procedures available. A study done in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that a  woman’s risk of dying from an abortion is about 0.6 per 100,000. Furthermore, studies by the American Psychological Association, The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and Johns Hopkins have all concluded that supposed links between abortion and mental health problems are unfounded. Being forced to carry through an unwanted pregnancy can be far more dangerous than getting an abortion.


Arkansas already has problems which would only be further aggravated by this law. The state is ranked number one in the United States for teen pregnancy by the CDC, with a birth rate of 30 per 1,000 females aged 15-19. The CDC finds that pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school dropout rates among teen girls. In addition, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower school achievement, have more health problems, and be incarcerated at some time during adolescence. It is in the best interest of the state to provide the resources that teen girls may need, including abortion services, but also contraception, reproductive health services, and improved sex education.


Arkansas is also tied with Alabama for the second-highest infant mortality rate in the nation. If a fetus has serious medical anomalies that would not allow it to live after birth, a woman should be able to decide to terminate that pregnancy in the early stages. Beyond medical consequences, women who are denied abortions are more likely to become unemployed, to be on public welfare, to be below the poverty line, and to become victims of domestic violence, according to a University of California at San Francisco study. 


It is important to note how this law may disproportionately affect different women. According to the CDC, maternal mortality rates are consistently higher for black women and indigenous women than for white women. Because of this disparity, SB6 could quite literally be the difference between life and death for some people. People of different economic positions will also be affected unevenly. Ultimately, the wealthy will always be able to receive the care they need, because they are able to travel to receive it, but women living in poverty don’t have those options. 


Abortion, when professionally performed, does not harm women. This bill is what will harm women. Whether someone is personally accepting of abortion should not affect other women’s ability to have the procedure done safely and legally. To take it away will endanger many people, and will have a disproportionate effect on women of color and women living below the poverty level. Instead of outright prohibiting it, resources need to be dedicated to preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, through improving sex education and making reproductive health services and contraception more accessible.