Arkansas Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto to Pass Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Bill

Little Rock, Arkansas — While it does not outlaw all abortion, and babies conceived in rape and incest may still have their heartbeats stopped at the hands of abortionists, legislators in Arkansas have voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that is being considered one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation.

Just days after passing a late-term abortion ban, both chambers voted this week to make the Human Heartbeat Protection Act law, overriding the veto of Democratic Governor Mike Beebe. The act prohibits most abortions last twelve weeks, provided that a heartbeat is detected. Exceptions include rape, incest, the life of the mother and fetal abnormalities that will end in death.

The Arkansas Senate voted 20-14 on Tuesday and the House voted 56-33 on Wednesday in favor of the override. Six Democrats joined with the Republican-led legislature in passing the law. Passage required only a majority vote.

“I’m just grateful that this body has continued to stand up for the bills that have passed,” said sponsor Senator Jason Rapert. “The eyes of the entire nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today. … Again, if there’s a heartbeat, there’s life, and we’re going to stand up for this law, regardless of who opposes it.”

“If I say that I’m pro-life, at some point I have to do something about what I say I believe,” asserted House sponsor Ann Clemer.

Governor Beebe’s reasoning for vetoing the bill was identical to his statement last week regarding the late-term abortion ban: that it contradicts the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v. Wade, and that it will likely result in costly legal battles.

“The adoption of blatantly unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State,” he contended. “It has been suggested that outside groups might represent the State for free in any litigation challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 134, but even if that were to happen, that would only lessen the State’s own litigation costs.”

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The ACLU says that it is already planning to file a challenge in the courts.

Some pro-life organizations also assert that the Human Heartbeat Protection Act is the wrong approach to end abortion, as the law will only be tossed out by judges who find the legislation to be unlawful.

“It’s certainly a statement, but looking at it in terms of legal effect or saving lives, it won’t do that, because regrettably, it will be enjoined by the courts,” said James Bopp Jr., attorney for National Right to Life.

On Wednesday, a federal judge overturned Idaho’s late-term abortion ban, called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which prohibited abortions past 20 weeks.

“The State’s clear disregard of this controlling Supreme Court precedent and its apparent determination to define viability in a manner specifically and repeatedly condemned by the Supreme Court evinces an intent to place an insurmountable obstacle in the path of women seeking non-therapeutic abortions of a nonviable fetus at and after twenty weeks’ gestation,” ruled Judge B. Lynn Winmil, nominated by Bill Clinton.

However, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, states that he is prepared to fight whatever battles are ahead in court.

“Many times over the years, I have had to defend state actions regardless of personal feelings or a likelihood of success,” he said in a written statement following the vote to override Beebe’s veto. “I have been candid with my clients throughout this process, including Gov. Beebe as he decided to veto the act and Sen. Rapert as we prepare for imminent litigation.”

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