On Tuesday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that will ban across the state a second-trimester abortion method that anti-abortion advocates say that it is excruciatingly painful to the fetus, although doctors condone it for being safe for women.
This Tuesday’s legislative move makes Arkansas the first state to outlaw “dismemberment abortion,” also known as dilation and evacuation abortion. During this type of second-trimester, an unborn but living child is “knowingly dismembered” and extracted one piece at a time from the uterus.
Dilation and evacuation is a common abortion method after the 12th week of pregnancy that doctors use for its safety and convenience. During the procedure the uterus is artificially dilated with medication and the fetus removed.
National Right to Life, one of the anti-abortion advocacy groups, hopes that the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act will inspire other states to also ban dilation and evacuation abortion. The group recently stated that the new law has the potential to alter “the landscape of abortion” in the U.S.
Other states including Oklahoma, South Carolina, Missouri, and South Dakota announced that they plan to pass a similar bill in the short run. But abortion activists plan to challenge the Arkansas law in court.
A spokesperson from the Trust Women Foundation called the new law the ‘physician intimidation and criminalization act,’ and deemed it unconstitutional. The foundation also said that having a 14-week abortion in Arkansas would be harder now but not impossible.
Planned Parenthood criticized Arkansas for passing such an “atrocious” law and for having the most severe restrictions on abortion in the U.S.
At a national level, abortions are usually performed in the first 12 weeks through a vacuum method that is not affected by the new law. But nearly 9 percent of abortions could be affected in Arkansas.
Dr. Kathleen Morell, a New York gynecologist and supporter of abortion rights, said that alternatives to dismemberment abortion are more costly, lengthier and less safe to women. For instance, taking drugs to naturally induce abortion can result in days of waiting and may require hospitalization.
Dr. Morell also said that the vast majority of her patients opt for dilation and evacuation, rather than induction, because they “are able to be asleep and comfortable” during the procedure and go to their homes when everything is over.
Doctors could dodge the new regulations by first killing the fetuses with an injection that stops their hearts from beating and then start to dismember their bodies. But this method is only employed after 18 weeks because before that term it can be very dangerous and has little odds of success.
According to the new Kansas law, women cannot perform dilation and evacuation abortion in the second trimester unless it is vital to save their lives or prevent an irreversible impairment. However, rape and incest are not on the exemption list.
But reproductive rights activists claim that they will try to overturn the law in court for being unconstitutional. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion is allowed until 24 weeks of pregnancy. After that moment, the fetus can live outside their mother’s womb, making abortion a crime.
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