Recently, an article was published by online media source named Bustle entitled “Rape Victims Must Notify Their Rapist Before Getting An Abortion in Arkansas.” Needless to say this article generated an outpouring of concern from Democrats and Republicans across the state.
The article implies in bold headlines that a woman must notify a rapist prior to exercising her reproductive rights. This is the definition of fake news. The notification requirements within HB1566 are in accordance with The Arkansas Final Disposition Act of 2009 and exclusively focus on the right to bury or cremate a person after he or she is deceased. The narrative that this legislation requires a woman to seek permission from her rapist before undergoing the procedure is demonstrably false. The story is wildly inaccurate, an example of extremely poor journalism and shameful.
The legislation, HB 1566 – A Bill To Amend The Provisions Of Law Concerning The Disposition Of Fetal Remains – was sponsored by Republican House Member, Kim Hammer of District 28. In an interview with KARK Channel 4 (based in Little Rock) Hammer stated the legislation was not intended to give undue power to third parties and stated that his intention was to create a distinction between an aborted fetus and medical waste. This legislation was tied to the Arkansas Disposition Act of 2009, which was meant to designate what happens to a body once it has expired and when no prior plans were made to designate how the remains would be handled. The law establishes a hierarchy of notification for remains – first a spouse, then surviving children, then surviving parents, then grandparents.
There are a couple of points we would like to correct for the record. First, in the scenario created by headline of the Bustle article, it is important to note that the focus of the decision would be about what to do with fetal remains after an abortion has already taken place. The related legislation referenced above denotes PARENT or PARENTS in regards to notification when determining the method of disposal for remains. Second, the article falsely claims the new law would require abortion providers to contact a patient’s sexual partner with no exception for rape victims.
In an interview with Bustle, Rep. Hammer stated that “He (the father) was there at conception so he ought to be there through the whole process.” This statement, as revealing as it is about Hammer’s beliefs regarding a woman’s agency over her own body, is what we believe fueled the notion that his bill provided rapists with rights over their victims. By misspeaking about his own legislation, Rep. Hammer not only misrepresented his own legislation but was also irresponsible with a highly sensitive subject that’s been used time and again to drive a wedge between voters and political parties. This is the sort of divisive behavior that is fodder for irresponsible media outlets who would trade the benefits of fact-checking for attention grabbing clickbait.
We call upon the Republican Party of Arkansas to stand with us to call attention to the perils of fake news and its destructive effect on our democracy.