AR’s Near-Total Abortion Ban Could Worsen Women’s Access to Health Care – Public News Service

This year lawmakers in Arkansas and 15 other states have introduced legislation intended to cut off access to abortion early in pregnancy. (Adobe Stock)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Women have faced greater barriers to accessing health-care services during the pandemic, especially Black and Brown women and those living in rural areas.

Experts say the state's recent bill banning nearly all abortions could have serious consequences for women seeking other forms of health care.

Holly Dickson, executive director and legal director for the ACLU of Arkansas, said research shows during the pandemic, women were more likely than men to have gone without health care and experienced deteriorating health conditions as a result of skipping medical services.

"This is one of the most extreme laws that Arkansas has ever passed because it did not contain an exception for rape or incest," Dickson explained. "So, we're seeing more extreme reproductive health-care bans being filed."

She added many states implemented emergency restrictions last year during the worst of COVID-19 outbreaks, despite recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that abortions should not be categorized as an elective or non-urgent procedure. She noted it remains unclear how those restrictions affected individuals seeking care.

Dickson contended the new law is part of a nationwide trend over the past few years to ban abortion very early in gestation, when many women may not realize they are pregnant.

"We're still fighting several cases that have been filed during previous legislative sessions," Dickson reported. "Court battles continue; 2015, 2017, 2019 laws that we had to challenge due to their unconstitutionality."

According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 51% of women report the coronavirus crisis has significantly affected their mental health.

There are currently only two clinics in the entire state serving more than half a million women of reproductive age.

Dickson pointed out the stress and uncertainty that come with an unintended pregnancy, and the difficulty finding a provider, have likely increased anxiety, fear and depression among women seeking care.

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AR's Near-Total Abortion Ban Could Worsen Women's Access to Health Care - Public News Service

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