Arkansas abortion ban now toughest in nation

3:45 PM, Mar 6, 2013   |    comments
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Michael Winter, USA TODAY

Arkansas has the nation's most restrictive abortion ban after the Republican-dominated state House voted Wednesday to override the governor's veto.

The measure, S.B. 134, bans most abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected, but it includes exemptions for rape, incest, the mother's life and disorders that would cause the baby to die soon after birth.

The law, titled "The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act," takes effect this summer.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday overrode Monday's veto by Gov. Mike Beebee, a Democrat.

"The eyes of this nation [have] been on the Arkansas House of Representatives today. And the eyes of this nation [have] seen that people are ready for change," said the measure's GOP sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, the Arkansas Democrat reported. "Again, if there's a heartbeat, there's life and we're going to stand up for this law, regardless of who opposes it."

Last week, the Legislature overrode another abortion-ban veto by Beebee. That bill, H.B. 1037, bans most abortions after 20 weeks, with the same exceptions, and became law with the Feb. 26 override.

Beebe said he vetoed both measures because he believes they are unconstitutional and will result in expensive legal challenges.

Of the 4,033 abortions in the state in 2011, 20% occurred at or after 12 weeks, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Abortion-rights group believe both measures are unconstitutional because of U.S. Supreme Court rulings and plan to sue.

"Lawmakers in Arkansas are placing women's lives on the line by passing the most severe ban on access to safe, legal medical care this country has seen in recent years," Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said last week after the Senate overrode Beebee's veto. "Nobody can predict what kinds of decisions a woman may have to make during a pregnancy, and it is outrageous for politicians to attempt to interfere in this serious and personal decision that a woman has to make with her family and her doctor."


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