The Arkansas General Assembly overrode Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, approving one of the most stringent abortion laws in the United States. KUAR reports the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 56-33 Wednesday, following the state Senate's 20-14 vote Tuesday. Senate Bill 134 prohibits a woman from getting an abortion after a heartbeat is detected in the womb, generally after 12 weeks of pregnancy. The law has been deemed the country's "most restrictive ban on abortion" by the New York Times .
What else does the law say?
The law states doctors must perform an ultrasound before performing an abortion. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, the doctor must notify the patient in writing that the heartbeat is present, the statistical odds of carrying the baby to full term and that an abortion is prohibited at that point. There are exceptions in the case of a medical emergency to save the mother's life in which an ultrasound is not required to abort the fetus. The heartbeat exception doesn't apply in the case of medical emergencies or if the mother becomes pregnant due to rape or incest. The law goes into effect in 90 days.
Why was the override necessary?
The Arkansas General Assembly is controlled by Republicans. Beebe is a Democrat. The New York Times piece states several Democrats joined the opposition party in the state Senate. Beebe called the legislation "blatantly unconstitutional " when issuing his override. In Arkansas, a simple majority is needed for a veto override.
Why is Arkansas' law one of the toughest in the nation?
The Times says the Supreme Court of the United States establishes a woman's right to have an abortion at 24 weeks. The Guttmacher Institute reveals many states ban abortions when a fetus becomes "viable." Several states list 20 to 24 weeks as the time period when abortions are illegal. A total of 41 states prohibit abortions after a certain time in the mother's womb. However, Arkansas is the only state to ban abortions after just 12 weeks. Many states, like Arkansas, allow abortions if the mother's life is in danger and in the case of rape or incest.
What happens next?
According to the Associated Press , abortion rights groups are planning lawsuits that will claim the new law contradicts the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. Beebe vetoed the legislation for fear it would be litigated, thereby using taxpayer dollars in defense of the law. In 1997, the state paid around $148,000 to attorneys who unsuccessfully defended a late-term abortion ban.
William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics.