Here's what you should know about Arkansas's ban on medical abortion

Monday, June 18, 2018 blog Share

Abortion is safe.


Abortion is safe. It's been proven by actual science. It's safer than getting your wisdom teeth or your tonsils out, even when you do it at home. Knowing this, it should be clear that attempts to restrict and ban abortion have nothing to do with health and safety, and everything to do with controlling the bodily autonomy of those seeking abortion care.

In May, the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on a direct assault on abortion access  in Arkansas. The Abortion-Inducing Drug Safety Act (HB 1394) was introduced in 2015, prohibiting the dispensing of the abortion pill by doctors who don't have a contract with a doctor who has hospital admitting privileges. By creating this unnecessary obstruction, Arkansas has effectively banned medical abortion, since now only one medical facility in the state meets the qualification.

The continual perpetuation of abortion stigma - negative and incorrect ideas about abortion, like it's dangerous, dirty, causes cancer, will ruin your fertility - is what laws like HB 1394 rely upon for traction. If people will buy into the idea, maintained and advanced  by the anti choice movement,  that abortion is a threat to those who seek it, instead of looking at information that directly contradicts that, then it seems perfectly legitimate that a doctor administering the abortion pill would need hospital admitting privileges. The reality is that the abortion pill isn't dangerous, just like surgical abortion isn't dangerous, but that hasn't stopped numerous states from instituting TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws. TRAP laws are unique to abortion clinics, and include requirements like the clinic having to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers, which means that clinics will probably have to undergo expensive renovations, although this kind of standard isn't necessary at a clinic that provides early abortions. This requirement hits on two common beliefs sustained by abortion stigma - that abortion is risky, but also that folks that perform abortions aren't real health care providers who don't know or dismiss the medical realities of what they do.

Planned Parenthood has argued that the requirement for doctors to have contracts with other doctors who have admitting privileges in order to administer the abortion pill places undue burden on people seeking abortion care. Not only is it ridiculous, because, again, the abortion pill is safe, and there's nothing perilous about taking it outside of a doctor's office, but if there's only one clinic in the state where this is the case, going to that one, as opposed to another one closer to where you might live, that effort comes with a whole host of other issues (child care, time off work, etc) that are totally unnecessary. (Also, some hospitals, Catholic ones, for example, don't grant admitting privileges to doctors who perform abortions, causing another barrier to care.) In response to the ban, Planned Parenthood's facilities in Little Rock and Fayetteville are working to make sure people can access medication abortion at those locations, while continuing to fight the regulation.

The Arkansas Abortion Support Network works to help folks in Arkansas access abortion care. Because the only place available in the state where medical and procedural (surgical) abortion is available is in Little Rock, the need for travel funds has expanded overnight. The driving time from Rogers, Arkansas to Little Rock can be as long as 4 hours. That means missing an entire day of work round trip for a procedure that could easily be done in your own home, or wherever you feel safe. You have the power to plan when you take the pill, who you want around when you do it, and if you want anyone to know. HB 1394 aims to take that away.

You do not have to get the abortion pill, or misoprostol, one of the components in the pill that can used on its own to induce abortion, from a doctor. It's available at Women Help Women, where you can also calculate how far along in pregnancy you are, get contraception, and get answers to your questions about medical abortion answered.