The Arkansas Senate [official website] voted Thursday to override a veto by Governor Mike Beebe [official website] of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act [HB 1037, PDF] which bans most abortions in the state 20 weeks after conception. The ban became law immediately following the Senate's 19-14 vote to override the veto [JURIST report] issued by Beebe on Tuesday. In his letter [official statement] accompanying his veto of the 20-week ban Beebe said he decided to attempt to block the bill because:
"[I]t would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic (sic) abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent. 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"Beebe also claimed his veto was to prevent dedicating state funds to defending the law which he felt was contrary to the decision in Roe v. Wade. According to Beebe, the last case in Arkansas challenging the constitutionality of an abortion statute cost Arkansas over $148,000 in 1999, and that because of the rising litigation costs a similar suit could be more costly to taxpayers.
Immediately after overriding the governor's veto, the Arkansas Senate passed the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act [SB 134, PDF] to restrict abortions after 12 weeks, which Beebe has previously said he would veto. The Senate's override makes Arkansas the eighth US state to ban or restrict abortions after 20 weeks. Similar laws restricting reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] are currently facing legal challenges in Arizona and Georgia [JURIST reports].