Little Rock, Arkansas — The governor of Arkansas has vetoed a bill that would have prohibited most late-term abortions in the state.
The bill, which was introduced by Republican Senator Andy Mayberry, sought to ban abortions at 20 weeks of gestation. It passed the House 80-10 last Friday and was sent to Governor Mike Beebe’s desk for approval.
Beebe explained Tuesday following the veto that he rejected the bill because he felt that it contradicted the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade, which claimed that babies could begin living outside of the womb at 22 to 24 weeks — approximately 5 1/2 to 6 months in gestation.
“[B]ecause it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent,” he wrote in an open letter. “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.”
Beebe also stated that he feared that the state would be leveled with a lawsuit if he signed the bill into law.
“[T]he adoption of unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State,” he continued. “Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party – in this case, the State – having to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant.”
According to reports, the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU had been threatening to sue if the bill was implemented.
However, lawmakers are considering overriding Beebe’s veto, which can be done via a majority vote in both Houses. Additionally, a second bill is coming up for a vote which would place even tighter restrictions on abortion. The “Heartbeat Bill” seeks to ban abortions past 12 weeks of gestation, the point where some say a heartbeat can be detected in a baby. However, fetal development experts estimate that the baby’s heart actually begins beating 2o-25 days following conception.
As previously reported, legislators in Ohio attempted to pass a similar law last year, but its passage was blocked by Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus. The senator stated that there were more pressing issues to focus on at the time other than abortion.
“I want to continue our focus on jobs and the economy,” Niehaus said. “That’s what people are concerned about.”
It is believed to be probable that Arkansas’ “Heartbeat Bill” will successfully clear both chambers and become one of the next bills to end up on the governor’s desk.
Mayberry’s late-term abortion ban included the exceptions of rape, incest and life of the mother — exceptions that many pro-lifers nationwide strongly reject.
UPDATE 02.28.13: Both chambers voted to override Governor Beebe’s veto, now making the legislation law.