Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill on Wednesday “to require certain documentation be presented before performing an abortion when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.”
The bill amends the Arkansas code restricting abortions of “viable fetuses,” providing that it “shall not prohibit the abortion of a viable fetus if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest perpetrated on a minor when documentation is presented that states that the crime has been reported to law enforcement.” Whether the woman reported the crime to law enforcement will be recorded in the woman’s medical records, and the number of abortions performed as the result of rape or incest will be reported to the Department of Health. The bill also amends “the prohibition of an abortion on an unborn child who is twenty weeks or more post-fertilization age” by allowing for the termination of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest after twenty weeks “when documentation is presented that states that the crime has been reported to law enforcement.”
The bill was passed in light of the near-total abortion ban which Governor Hutchinson signed into law in March. The near-total ban did not account for circumstances such as rape or incest; supporters of the law enforcement documentation bill argue that it protects pregnant people who were sexually assaulted from being subjected to the same laws as the rest of the state. However, opponents of the bill state that it further victimizes survivors of sexual assault by forcing them to recount and relive their stories, and by potentially puts them in an unsafe situation after reporting an assault.