At the end of this month, a new law is set to go fully into effect in Arkansas, which will require women to get permission from the man who impregnated them before having an abortion, even in the case of rape. This has sparked a lot of controversy, as people argue not just the ethics of abortion and a woman’s right to her own body, but also the possible implications of forcing a victim to confront their rapist. Due to the sexual assault epidemic on college campuses, it is probable that college-aged women are going to be some of those affected by the new law. Given that sobering fact, we gathered reactions on this law from eight college women across the political spectrum who either attend school in Arkansas or are from the state.
"As a female college student, who has experienced sexual assault on a college campus, this bill terrifies me. When you experience sexual assault you feel as if someone has completely taken away your freedom for long after the assault is over. The fear I felt waiting and worrying if I could potentially be pregnant was traumatic, especially while I was already dealing with moving past a terrible experience. And, this bill only continues that. This tells women that someone can hurt you without asking for your permission and then you have to turn around and ask them if you can terminate a pregnancy they forced upon you. But even beyond the sexual assault issue, this bill takes away bodily autonomy and says that the man who impregnates you should have as much control over your body as you do. Which I find disgusting."
Kruti Shah, University of Arkansas, 19
“A female shouldn’t have to ask someone who didn’t have the rights to her body decide what happens to her body again.”
"I personally think women should tell their partner if they're considering an abortion just through an ethical standpoint. With this act, there could potentially be less cases of abortion if both parents of the fetus are involved in the decision making process by law. However, in cases of sexual assault and abuse, the issue of ethics is elsewhere. Thus, this act wouldn't suffice."
Gina Cordray, University of Arkansas, 19
"I think that this law is crazy. As a female college student I feel incredibly uncomfortable with this even being a possibility. The possibility of being raped, especially on a college campus, is a very real issue that occurs to women our own age. The fact that we would have to live the memory of that traumatic event, and have to keep the child as well, is not something I'd want to force upon any female. Even in a milder case, we are the ones to get pregnant and possibly have our entire future changed simply because the male not wanting us to have an abortion. I know if this happened to me, regardless of rape, boyfriend or random hook up, becoming pregnant and being forced to still have the child would completely take away from my education, and make it extremely difficult from the time loss and possibly emotional attachment to continue as an engineering student as I would hope to. The male is not having to make those sacrifices, so I don't think they should have input, especially if it is a rape situation."
Hannah Davis, University of Arkansas, 20
"I can't wait for the day that women are finally granted full control of their own bodies. Aside from the abusers having a say in the abortion, which shouldn't even be considered an option, women of all ages should not have to jump through hoops to make decisions that directly affect them. As a woman, I am terrified of what this means for women's right. As an Arkansas resident, I am ashamed."
Emily Rosenau, University of Arkansas, 19
"As someone who doesn't support abortion in most cases, I find the idea of needing permission from one's rapist to get an abortion a completely degrading and terrifying idea. Even though I don't support abortion, the idea of having to see or communicate with one's rapist in any way would be a horrible experience for any woman. A rape survivor does not owe her rapist even the slightest bit of decency, much less a part in deciding the future of her and her unborn child. The idea that our government would even suggest the idea of a woman having to interact with her rapist is alarming. Whether or not you agree with a woman's choice to have an abortion, the rapist that has brought her so much pain should never get to be involved in her decision."
Katja Wiederkehr, University of Arkansas, 19
"What this tells me is that Arkansas legislators believe that it is a man’s right to have control over women and their bodies. This blatant sexism is concerning to me because it tells me that my body is nothing but a object to be used by men however they see fit. Sadly, this is only the beginning of what is wrong with this legislation. Whatever political party you are, I think everyone can agree that rape is a horrific ordeal no one should have to face. The idea that a woman whose body and mind have been violated, should now be forced to "willingly" give up control over her body to the same person who violated her is unthinkable. Not only does this not show respect for women, it tells victims of sexual assault and any similar trauma that they don't matter. If the goal [of this legislation] is the promotion of life, then what kind of life are we telling women they are entitled to? To remain emotionally and physically subject to the will of a rapist is no life. As a female college student, sexual assault is a present danger to me. If I were raped, not only would I be forced to place my body into my rapists hands, now I would be forced to hand him my entire future too. What right does this man have to me and my life? None. Absolutely none. While trying not to delve into the issue of abortion itself, the fact that legislators are abusing their power to not only gain control over women, but to push their personal agendas without regard to the consequences is unacceptable. Women are not pawns in their game, and I sincerely hope that as a community we can unite to stand for the basic respect women deserve."
"No rapist should have any say whatsoever over their victim's choices. Instead of giving them further power over the victims life, they should be rotting behind bars. I would equate this law to passing a law that says a man must ask permission from his parents, wife or girlfriend if he wants to have a vasectomy. It just doesn't make sense."
As the law comes closer to going into full effect, pro-choice and sexual assault activists are battling for the delay and removal of this law. No matter the outcome, it is bound to have an effect on how other states treat abortion, making this an important debate to continue to pay attention to.
*Responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness
Lead Image Credit: Nicolas Henderson via Flickr Creative Commons