Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday vetoed a ban on most abortions in Arkansas at 20 weeks into a pregnancy, setting up an override fight with a Republican-controlled Legislature that has been pushing for more restrictions on the procedure.
Beebe said he vetoed the ban, which is based on the disputed belief that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, because it runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion until the point where fetuses can survive outside the womb, usually at 22 to 24 weeks. The Republican sponsor of the measure said he’ll seek to override Beebe’s veto.
“Because 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,” Beebe said in his veto 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.”
Opponents have also noted that the only way to detect a fetal heartbeat at six weeks is by using a vaginal probe.”Can you imagine what kind of feeling that would cause when inserted into a woman?” Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, asked Rapert on the Senate floor. Flowers voted against the bill. “No,” Rapert, R-Conway, replied.
The Arkansas Senate voted Thursday to prohibit most abortions if a heartbeat is detected, ignoring warnings from opponents that banning the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy would invite lawsuits.
If enacted, the ban would be the most stringent in the nation. The Ohio House passed a similar ban in 2011, but it was sidelined in the Senate last year over concerns that it might be found unconstitutional. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe told reporters Thursday that’s the same concern that he’s researching.
“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.”
The Senate approved the new ban the same day that a House committee advanced two other abortion restrictions, part of a package of legislation anti-abortion groups believe are poised to become law now that Republicans control the state General Assembly.
The Senate approved the proposed “Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act” by a 26-8 vote. The measure, which now heads to a House committee, 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.