After a back-and-forth with Democratic Gov. Mike Beebee, both the Arkansas House and Senate voted to override Beebee’s veto of a ban on abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The override guarantees that, absent action from the courts, Arkansas will shoot to the top of the list of states most hostile to reproductive rights.
Under the law, doctors who perform abortions on a patient who is more than 12 weeks pregnant will lose their medical licenses unless that patient is a victim of rape or incest, her life is in danger or the fetus has a highly lethal abnormality. Republican supporters of the bill argue that abortion should be banned that early in a pregnancy because the fetal heartbeat can be detected at that point. Opponents are quick to point out that 12 weeks is pre-fetal viability, thus making the ban unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. “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,” Beebe said in a statement. “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 Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Arkansas have committed to challenging the law in federal court before the law is scheduled to take effect 90 days after the legislative session adjourns.
“The politicians supporting this legislative assault on women have made clear both their indifference to the lives and health of the women of Arkansas and their hostility toward the fundamental rights guaranteed to women by the U.S. Constitution.” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“We intend to make it equally clear that no one’s constitutional rights are subject to revision by lawmakers intent on scoring political points, and that attempts such as this to turn back the clock on reproductive rights will not stand.”
Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, also issued a statement condemning the override:
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. Governor 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. Women are counting on Planned Parenthood to protect their access to cancer screenings, birth control, and safe and legal abortion — and we will continue to fight for them in Arkansas and across the country.
Arkansas is also among the list of states with a single clinic in-state for performing abortions, which is a good indication of how difficult abortions are to access in the state without this latest restriction, not that it matters to conservative legislators who drafted this bill with a specific legal challenge to Roe v. Wade in mind. And while it’s good to hear reproductive rights advocates will challenge this bill immediately, that means that more state dollars will go to fight a blatantly unconstitutional bill. Can Arkansas really afford that?
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