A judge has issued an injunction preventing the enforcement of the strongest pro-life law on the books in the nation. The measure bans abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The state legislature had to override a gubernatorial veto to get the law in place. The Republican House voted 56-33 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.
The Associated Press has more on today’s injunction:
U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted a motion for preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and the Center for Reproductive Rights brought on behalf of two Little Rock abortion providers.
Friday’s decision means the ban, which was set to take effect in August, can’t be enforced while the lawsuit is pending. A decision about the law’s constitutionality is expected later.
The lawsuit says the ban is unconstitutional and clearly contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside the womb — generally 22 to 24 weeks.
The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Dr. Louis Jerry Edwards and Dr. Tom Tvedten, names members of the Arkansas State Medical Board as defendants because the board is responsible for licensing medical professionals.
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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.”
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.