The Arkansas Legislature has approved the earliest abortion ban in the nation.
And it’s now up to Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe to decide what to do next. If he vetoes the bill, his veto could be overridden by a simple majority in the Republican Legislature as it was earlier Thursday on a similar 20-week abortion ban bill.
The Arkansas Senate gave final approval Thursday morning to the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, which would ban abortions at 12 weeks into pregnancy if a heartbeat is detected, with exceptions for cases of rape or incest, to save the life of the mother or for a lethal fetal condition. The bill now goes directly to Beebe.
Through “fetal pain” laws, other states have begun approving abortion bans at around 20 weeks into pregnancy — such a ban became law in Arkansas with the veto override early Thursday — but this bill would go further, turning Arkansas into the only state to ban abortions that early in a pregnancy.
Abortion rights groups immediately urged Beebe to reject the bill. “This extreme legislation would insert politics into women’s personal medical decisions, and we urge Gov. Beebe to veto it immediately,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.
“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,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
In vetoing the 20-week ban on Tuesday, Beebe said the bill violated Supreme Court precedent that establishes states cannot limit abortions before viability. That was one of 10 “fetal pain” laws that have been enacted in 10 states, based on the assertion that the fetus can experience pain after 20 weeks. Cases have been filed against such laws in Arizona and Georgia.