Yesterday, the Arkansas state legislature voted to override Governor Beebe’s veto of the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, which bans abortion after a heartbeat can be detected with a standard ultrasound (usually 12 weeks). While the bill does include exemptions for rape, incest, severe fetal abnormality, and to save the life of the mother, the bill is the strictest abortion ban in the United States.

Governor Beebe vetoed the bill on Monday believing arguing that it was unconstitutional. In a statement, Governor Beebe said “In short, because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability, Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court. 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.” The Arkansas state Senate voted 20-14 to override Beebe’s veto on Tuesday, and the House agreed in a vote of 56-33.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement “We are deeply disappointed that the Arkansas Legislature voted to impose the most restrictive ban on safe and legal abortion in the country. The majority of Arkansans – and the majority of Americans – don’t want politicians involved in a woman’s personal medical decisions about her pregnancy. Gov. Beebe rightfully vetoed this legislation, and the Legislature would have been wise to let the veto stand as this bill is clearly unconstitutional. People in Arkansas and across America know that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman to make. This extreme legislation would insert politics into women’s personal medical decisions.”

Rita Sklar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas told reporters, “It sets Arkansas back several decades in the eyes of the nation and the world. It shows an utter disregard for women and their ability to make important personal decisions about their own reproductive health.” ACLU is expected to challenge the ban in court, along with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Media Resources: CNN 3/7/2013; New York Times 3/6/2013; Reuters 3/6/2013; USA Today 3/6/2013; Feminist Newswire 3/6/2013, 3/5/2013

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 2002: a postage stamp printed in USA showing an image of the Arkansas state, circa 2002 by catwalker / Shutterstock.com

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