The State of Arkansas now has the distinction of having the nation’s most restrictive abortion law on its books.
On Wednesday the Arkansas House of Representatives voted 56-33 to override Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, which prohibits most abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy if a heartbeat can be detected. The Arkansas Senate had voted 20-14 to override the governor’s veto on Tuesday.
The new law specifies that any doctor providing an abortion “perform an abdominal ultrasound test necessary to detect a heartbeat of an unborn human individual according to standard practice.” A doctor stands to lose his medical license if he violates the law.
The Arkansas legislature also recently approved a law outlawing most abortions after 20 weeks. Governor Beebe had vetoed that law as well, but it too was overridden by the legislature. The 20-week law went into effect immediately. The 12-week restriction will go into effect 90 days after the close of the legislative session, expected at the end of March or early April.
Governor Beebe claimed, as he vetoed the bill, that it contradicts the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court, by denying women the “right” to a “nontherapeutic” abortion prior to viability.
The American Civil Liberties Union has pledged to challenge the new law in court. Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood and other abortion advocates have promised a fight as well. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, said a number of law firms have offered to help the state defend the laws in court.
According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 20% of the abortions performed in Arkansas last year were done after twelve weeks. That breaks down to over 800 babies.
Arkansas has also passed a measure to prohibit abortion coverage by insurers participating in the state’s health insurance exchange under Obamacare. The governor actually signed that bill.
We applaud the pro-life representatives in Arkansas who stood up for the unborn and did the hard work necessary to get the Human Heartbeat Protection Act passed. We hope it is the first of many states to enact similar legislation. The law does not save all the babies in Arkansas, but it will be very significant to more than 800 babies every year who will escape the abortionist’s clutches.