Arkansas Legislators Override Democratic Governor’s Veto of Late-Term Abortion Ban

Little Rock, Arkansas — Legislators in Arkansas have voted to override the governor’s veto of a late-term abortion ban that was recently passed by both houses.

As previously reported, 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 Democratic 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.”

However, both chambers quickly took a vote on whether or not to override Beebe’s veto. The House voted yesterday 53 to 28 in favor of the override, and the Senate had an even closer tally of 19 to 14 today. Arkansas now becomes the eighth state in the nation to ban abortions at 20 weeks — albeit with the exceptions of rape, incest and the life of the mother.

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The state Senate also voted today 26 to 8 to approve an even more stringent abortion ban called “The Heartbeat Bill.” The measure seeks to outlaw 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.”

Arkansas’ “Heartbeat Bill” now moves to Governor Beebe’s desk for signing. If he vetoes the legislation, both houses may decide again to vote to override the veto. In doing so, Arkansas would have the strongest abortion restrictions in the nation.

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