Arkansas GOP Makes Obtaining Abortions for Teen Rape Survivors More Burdensome

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Arkansas GOP Makes Obtaining Abortions for Teen Rape Survivors More Burdensome

Teddy Wilson

Lawmakers in the Arkansas house passed a bill Friday that would further restrict a minor’s ability to receive safe abortion care by tightening the state’s mandatory parental consent law.

Lawmakers in the Arkansas house passed a bill Friday that would further restrict a minor’s ability to receive safe abortion care by tightening the state’s mandatory parental consent law.

HB 1424, sponsored by Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork), would change the state’s parental notification policy to require more proof that parental consent is given by the minor’s parent or guardian.

The bill would also remove the exception for minors who become pregnant through rape or incest. The bill retains an exception for a medical emergency, but includes the additional requirement that a parent or guardian be notified at least 24 hours after the abortion.

The bill also modifies the judicial bypass process, by which a minor can seek an abortion without parental consent. Under current law, a minor seeking an abortion can seek a judicial bypass ruling from any judge in the state, but HB 1424 would require ruling to come from a judge in the county where the minor lives.

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The bill passed the GOP-dominated house by a vote of 68-6, with all six votes against coming from Democrats.

The bill’s sponsor has received significant criticism for re-homing his adopted daughters to a man who allegedly raped the oldest of the two. The same man who allegedly raped Harris’ adoptive daughter worked at a preschool owned by Harris.

Harris owns the Growing God’s Kingdom Preschool, which has received more than $4 million in state funds since 2010. The school has been criticized for using taxpayer money for religious indoctrination.

Ashley Wright, an Arkansas lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the new draconian parental consent requirements can place a minor who may be in a violent or unsafe living situation at greater risk.

“We’re concerned about it because it makes that process much more onerous,” Wright said. “A judicial bypass is only sought when a minor feels they’re in a dangerous situation. Currently those minors can seek that bypass in any circuit court. With this bill, the minor would have to seek a bypass within her own county. This poses a great risk for that information getting back to the minor’s parents, which is exactly what she is trying to prevent in a dangerous situation.”

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas-based Family Council, told the Democrat-Gazette that the anti-choice bill simply upgrades the current law.

“Right now there is really no way to know… if a 40-year-old man goes into an abortion clinic with a girl and he says, ‘This is my daughter. She needs an abortion.’ There’s no way to really verify if he’s the parent or not,” Cox said. “Under this legislation, they would have to show verification.”

The bill was introduced Monday in the senate, where Republicans enjoy a 23-11 majority, and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Public Health, Welfare, and Labor, where it awaits further action.