The Arkansas state House completed the override of Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe that gives the state the strongest pro-life law on the books in the nation. The measure bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, though it won’t take effect until this summer and will probably be stopped in court.
The Republican House voted 56-33 on Wednesday to override after the state Senate voted yesterday to do the same thing. The bill arrived on Beebe’s desk after clearing the Senate, 26-8, and the House, 68-20.
Last week, the Legislature overrode Beebe’s veto of a ban on most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy. That law took effect immediately, but the Heartbeat abortion ban likely won’t stand up in court.
The law requires a test to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. If one is detected, a woman could not have an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and if a mother’s life is in danger.
“Because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability, Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court,” Beebe said in a letter vetoing the bill. “When I was sworn in as governor I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously.”
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow is the bill sponsor and he was upset Gov. Beebe said costs to fight the expected court battle led to the veto.
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Rapert said he told Beebe, “I have given you an opportunity to save thousands of lives in the future of this state … and you have stated that you would sign a bill to do away with the death penalty in the state of Arkansas for convicted murderers. I believe the same place in your heart in which you would find yourself able to do that should be the same place in your heart that you should be able to protect the lives of unborn innocent children.”
Last week, Beebe vetoed a bill to ban abortions at 20 weeks into pregnancy but the legislature overrode the veto. With the legislature only needing a simple majority to override a veto, the sponsor of the 12-week ban says he will ask the state House and Senate to do just that.
At 22 days into pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant, unborn children complete the development of their heart to the point that a heartbeat begins and the bill would stop abortions at that point.
Some pro-life groups are not on board with the legislation, not because they oppose banning abortions but out of a concern that it will be struck down in court if passed, since the Supreme Court is currently dominated by at least a 5-4 pro-abortion majority. As a result, the legislation would be struck down in court and the ruling would add to the case law that supports Roe vs. Wade. Such groups are working to change the courts so Roe can be overturned and legislation like the Heartbeat bill or others could be approved to provide legal protection for unborn children.
Before vetoing the bill, Beebe told reporters his office was looking into those constitutional concerns.
“I’m waiting on lawyers. I think that’s the big concern right now – does it run afoul of the Supreme Court or constitutional restrictions?” Beebe said. “That’s the first thing we’re looking at.”
“I’m asking you to stand up for life, and I believe when there is a heartbeat, based upon even the standard the Supreme Court has utilized, you cannot have a viable child without a heartbeat,” Sen. Jason Rapert, the bill’s sponsor, told lawmakers before they approved the legislation.