WORKING TO LIMIT ABORTION ACCESS: Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) is the lead sponsor of HB 1856. Brian Chilson

This year, state legislators in Little Rock have been staging an all-out, unrelenting attack on abortion access in Arkansas.

In a mad rush to outlaw abortion, they’ve passed bills that would ban abortion at just 18 weeks of pregnancy, force women to be interrogated about their motives and immediately criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned.


Now they’ve taken a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook and trained their sights on our state’s most vulnerable women and girls.

House Bill 1856 would bar women in state custody — including incarcerated women and young people in the child welfare system — from obtaining an abortion, even if their pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.


As written, this bill would require women raped by prison guards to continue a pregnancy even if the abortion was needed for her own medical health. A young child taken into DHS custody because of rape by a family member would be denied abortion — even if all medical providers agree abortion is necessary for that child’s health and safety.

House Bill 1856 would compound the trauma of women and girls who have already suffered unconscionable violence and abuse.


We’ve seen how the Trump administration has gone to shocking extremes to monitor and dictate the reproductive health decisions of refugees — even tracking their periods and pregnancies in a spreadsheet.

The ACLU took Trump administration to court to protect the rights of immigrant women and girls — and we’re fully prepared to challenge this copycat attack on the state level.

Constitutional law clearly establishes that all women — including those in state custody — have a right to have abortion counseling services and abortion services if they so decide. In Roe v. Crawford, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a similar abortion restriction propagated by the Missouri Department of Corrections.

For 50 years, the ACLU of Arkansas has defended the rights of women and girls to access health care and make decisions for themselves with the support of their doctors and families. For example, when the Arkansas Department of Correction tried to coerce an inmate raped by a guard into having an abortion, we intervened and she gave birth to a healthy, baby boy.


Bottom line: The government has no right to block a woman from accessing the care she needs to end a pregnancy or continue a pregnancy — regardless of her incarceration status.

Deeply personal medical decisions should be made by women in consultation with their doctors — not politicians.

We won’t let politicians block women from obtaining the care they need.