A Battle in Arkansas

Yesterday, a legislature of extremists in Arkansas ignored the governor, ignored broad national support for the right to abortion, ignored the United States Supreme Court, ignored logic, and, most importantly, ignored a woman’s human right to make deeply personal decisions about her reproductive health care and her future. The cumulative effect of all this ignorance is the most extreme ban on abortion in the U.S., within the first trimester of pregnancy, at 12 weeks.

The anti-choice fervor of politicians wouldn’t be possible without support from the people they represent. That’s why the director of the only clinic that provides surgical abortion in the state, whom we’ll call Sam, asked us to keep her name anonymous, for her protection and that of her staff’s.

The clinic is not far from the headquarters of one of the most hostile anti-choice groups in the country, which has made a practice of targeting Sam’s clinic. Last year, she and the doctor she works with found that their home neighborhoods had been flooded with thousands of offensive fliers, publishing their pictures and personal information in an effort to shame them out of delivering reproductive health care. Her concern about drawing attention is understandable.

That doesn’t mean she’s not committed to her vocation. “If not me, then who?” says Sam. She began this work 13 years ago and has seen more than her share of harassment. When she first considered entering the field, she says, “I was surprised how many people would not take this job.” She didn’t say “No” because she knew her work was important.

Naturally, Sam is worried about her future patients. The ban will force women already struggling under tough economic circumstances to travel hundreds of extra miles to a neighboring state to get the constitutionally protected health care to which they have a right. Or not.

“If patients can’t travel these distances,” because of monetary reasons or difficulty getting time free from a job, says Sam, “they will resort to unsafe measures.”

As states continue to erode access to abortion care—or try to abolish it altogether—more and more women will find themselves asking what they are willing to do to get an abortion. And there is little doubt that some of them will resort to dangerous methods beyond the safety of a doctor’s office or clinic—methods that we believed were made obsolete by Roe v. Wade. Tragic consequences will certainly follow.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU will fight this offensive law to the end to make sure that women in Arkansas and the surrounding states have access to the safest, high-quality reproductive health care, a right that is protected by the U.S. Constitution.