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Arkansas passes nation's broadest abortion restrictions
By Adelaide Darling
Arkansas State Capitol. Credit: Edward Stojakovic via Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0).
Arkansas State Capitol. Credit: Edward Stojakovic via Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0).

.- Arkansas legislators have overridden a veto by the governor in order to prohibit most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, the earliest ban of any state in the country.

“I feel grateful that people recognize that the abortion policy of this nation has not made abortions rare,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, in a statement. “In Arkansas, we have now recognized the need for a more balanced policy, and Roe v. Wade has allowed us this option.”

“I am so proud of my fellow legislators for standing up and protecting the lives of unborn children,” he continued. “When there is a heartbeat, there is life.”

The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act bans nearly all abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The so-called “heartbeat bill” is named after its supporters’ argument that unborn babies deserve legal protection once a heartbeat can be identified on an abdominal ultrasound.

The new law – which will go into effect this summer – prohibits abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, except in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is endangered.

State legislatures enacted the bill by overturning the veto of Arkansas governor Mike Beebe with a 56-33 vote in the state House of Representatives and a 20-14 vote in the state Senate.

The passage of the law comes within a week of the Arkansas legislature’s approval of another pro-life bill banning abortion after 20 weeks, the point at which scientific evidence indicates that the unborn can feel pain. That bill was also vetoed by the governor, and the veto was likewise overridden by the legislature, going immediately into effect.

Governor Beebe, who has supported some other laws limiting abortion in the past, cited concerns over the laws’ constitutionality as his primary reason for vetoing the fetal heartbeat bill. Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocacy groups have pledged to fight the legislation.

Pro-life organizations are concerned about the effects of a lawsuit challenging the new law. Patrick Gallaher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas and a lobbyist for the Diocese of Little Rock, warned that the law may be politically and financially risky.

“If the state were to lose it would be very costly and may actually wind up bankrolling pro-abortion well into the future,” Gallaher said to the Arkansas Catholic newspaper in Little Rock.

Similar concerns were echoed by Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, which neither officially supported nor opposed the bill.

“We are incrementalists. That's our strategy,” Mimms told the Associated Press. “We try to make inroads where we can. We would love for the heartbeat to be able to be held constitutional.”

Going forward, the Republican legislature intends to use their momentum to continue fighting abortion within the state. Sen. Rapert is hoping to cut public funding to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortion.

“I'm glad for them to do education and do those sorts of things, but I do not like them utilizing funds, indirectly even, to support their efforts with abortion in our state,” Rapert said, according to the Associated Press.

Tags: Abortion, Pro-life, Heartbeat


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