2 states introduce sweeping bills to prosecute pregnant people for abortions

Republicans in Arkansas and Oklahoma introduced bills this week that would allow authorities to criminally prosecute pregnant people for seeking abortion services. The legislation offers a terrifying preview of things to come in a country that no longer has federal protections against abortion.

Oklahoma Senate Bill 287 and arkansas House Bill 1174 they were proposed with the specific intent of criminalizing anyone who aborts. Oklahoma law objectives to amend the state’s near-total ban on abortion to remove language protecting pregnant people from prosecution. The Arkansas law would allow the state’s homicide laws to apply to aborted fetuses and give them due process protections, while also repealing protections for people who “solicit, advise, encourage, or coerce a pregnant woman” to have an abortion.

Both bills include exceptions to preserve the life of a pregnant person. But as with the rape and incest exemptions from the bans in other states, the wording is vague and will likely force people to near death before they are legally allowed to receive life-saving care. Arkansas law also includes exceptions for miscarriages, but this can be virtually meaningless since abortion and miscarriage are medically indistinguishable.

These proposed laws, if passed, will empower law enforcement and the legal system to screen, police, and criminalize not only people who seek abortion services, but also those with wanted pregnancies. And they could profoundly discourage people from seeking care if they have problems with their pregnancies.

HuffPost contacted the sponsors of both bills — Oklahoma State Sen. Warren Hamilton (R) and Arkansas State Representative Richard Womack (R) and Sen. Matt McKee (R) — but neither immediately responded.

Giving pregnant people the go-ahead to prosecute is a slippery and dangerous slope that will affect anyone who might become pregnant, said Farah Diaz-Tello, senior counsel and legal director at the reproductive justice nonprofit If/When/ How.

“If it’s possible to criminally prosecute someone for intentionally terminating a pregnancy, that means they have to go through some kind of process to determine if it was intentional or not. That’s called a criminal charge. That is an investigation,” she said.

“Anyone who can’t guarantee a healthy baby at the end of a pregnancy is going to have to undergo some sort of investigation to make sure they didn’t intentionally do something to end the pregnancy or harm it in any way.”

Currently, there are no legal obstacles to passing such legislation in deeply anti-abortion states like Arkansas and Oklahoma, but there will be challenges once the bills are signed into law, Diaz-Tello predicted. PPeople would first have to be arrested, charged and prosecuted for the results of their pregnancy, and then the laws may face pushback in the courts.

Although the mainstream anti-abortion movement has long said it will not persecute pregnant people, choosing instead to criminalize doctors, health care providers, and anyone who helps someone get an abortion, the tide may be turning.

Opponents of abortion have been reinvigorated since last year’s reversal of roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. The measure gave them license to campaign on political positions that were considered too extreme just two or three years ago. Six-week abortion restrictions or bans without exceptions for rape or incest, which were once taboo, are now the policies that could help a Republican win his primary.

According to many reproductive rights advocates, the idea of ​​criminalizing people who seek an abortion is causing a rift among those who oppose the procedure. The bills in Arkansas and Oklahoma, as well as recent comments from the Alabama attorney generalthey point to a growing faction in the anti-abortion movement that is heading in a much more radical direction.

But criminally targeting pregnant people in this way is unprecedented. Prosecutors have used the laws to criminalize hundreds of women in states like Alabama and Missouri for the results of their pregnancies, including as Roe v. Wade was still in force. And lawmakers in Louisiana, Texas and Iowa have tried to pass bills aimed at women who have abortions.

“This perspective is really nothing new. We’re just more in tune now because of the Roe crash,” Diaz-Tello said.

“People need to know that the guardrails that the Constitution used to provide are gone, so the stakes are much higher now,” he added. “We cannot be asleep at the wheel. Everybody has to come forward and say this is not right.”


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