Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Arkansas Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto, Affirms 12-Week Abortion Limit

(Photo: Jimmy Emerson)

(Photo: Jimmy Emerson)

Arkansas lawmakers defiantly voted to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a measure banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The Associated Press reports that Arkansas will soon have the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, barring a lawsuit or court action, after the Republican-dominated legislature voted to override the Democratic governor’s veto.

The Arkansas House voted 56-33 on Wednesday to override the veto, following a Tuesday Senate vote of 20-14.

The legislature’s vote comes just days after state lawmakers overrode a similar veto of another abortion bill, one which prohibited nearly all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Unlike the 20-week measure, which went into effect immediately, the 12-week ban does not begin until this summer.

The 12-week limit will not apply to victims of rape or incest, or in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, or in cases of highly lethal fetal disorders.

While women who violate the 12-week limit will not be prosecuted under the law, doctors who perform such abortions face possible revocation of their medical licenses.

Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway), who sponsored the bill banning abortion after 12 weeks– the point at which a fetus’ heartbeat can usually be detected via abdominal ultrasound– said he was “grateful” that the legislature voted to override Gov. Beebe’s veto.

“I’m just grateful that this body has continued to stand up for the bills that have passed,” Rapert told the AP. “The eyes of the entire nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today.”

But Beebe, who believes that the measures are unconstitutional because federal law gives women up to 24 weeks to have an abortion, warned that the state would end up wasting taxpayers’ money defending the bills in court, where they would likely be struck down.

Reproductive rights advocates slammed the 12-week limit as “extreme.”

“The Arkansas Legislature has once again disregarded women’s health care and passed the most extreme anti-women’s health bill in the country,” Jill June, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, told the AP. “With this bill, the Arkansas Legislature will force many women to seek unsafe care.”

The Arkansas House vote came just hours after a federal judge struck down a similar law in Idaho which banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Idaho was one of seven states that adopted so-called ‘fetal pain’ laws since 2011. In rejecting Idaho’s law, US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the measure places an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion.

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