On May 12, National Right to Life and Arkansas Right to Life joined more than 70 state, national, and international prolife organizations in issuing an open letter to America’s lawmakers urging them not to impose criminal penalties on women who have abortions.
As states prohibit abortion, lawmakers are facing questions about whether or not to prosecute a woman who breaks the law by having an abortion.
Here are four reasons why Arkansas law should not punish a woman who has an abortion.
Women were not prosecuted for having illegal abortions before Roe.
Before 1973, abortion generally was illegal in Arkansas.
The Arkansas Legislature enacted the state’s first laws against abortion around 1875.
As far as our team can tell, from 1875 to 1973 Arkansas never prosecuted women for having illegal abortions.
The abortionist could be prosecuted for breaking the law, but not the woman. The same was true in many other states that prohibited abortion prior to Roe v. Wade.
Even though Arkansans recognized that abortion was wrong, they also recognized that there were serious problems with prosecuting a woman who has an abortion.
Some women are coerced into having an abortion.
Over the decades, we have heard countless women say that they were pressured into having an abortion against their will.
In some cases it was a parent who told them they had to have an abortion. In other cases it was an abusive boyfriend.
Some pro-lifers have speculated that human traffickers may force their victims to have abortions if they become pregnant.
It isn’t right to prosecute a woman who may have been forced to have an abortion against her will.
How will our state prosecute illegal abortionists if the women face prosecution too?
Now that abortion is prohibited in Arkansas, our authorities need to be able to prosecute abortionists who violate the law.
In order to do that, they may need testimony from women who have gone to those abortionists for illegal abortion procedures.
Will women come forward to testify against abortionists in court if they know that they can be prosecuted too?
Prosecuting women as well as abortionists may make it harder to hold abortionists accountable for breaking the law.
We don’t have to prosecute women to abolish abortion.
We can shut down abortion facilities and prosecute abortionists without putting women in jail, too.
Abortion facilities that violate state laws should be shuttered, and abortionists who break the law should be penalized.
If we do that, we can stop abortion in Arkansas. We don’t have to prosecute women who have had abortions in order to end abortion.