Ark. Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of 20th-Week Abortion Ban

By:  Dave Bohon
Ark. Legislature Overrides Governor's Veto of 20th-Week Abortion Ban

The Arkansas legislature overrode a veto by Governor Mike Beebe to enact a pro-life law that bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

On February 27 the Arkansas state legislature overrode a veto by Governor Mike Beebe of HB 1037, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which will prohibit most abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. Following the veto, which Beebe said came because the law contradicts the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, the legislature quickly enacted the override, with the House voting by a wide 53 to 28 margin, followed by a much closer 19 to 14 Senate vote. With passage of the bill, Arkansas became the the eighth state to ban abortion after 20th week of pregnancy, except for rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.

“The Arkansas Legislature has voted to end the killing of unborn children at an age when they are capable of experiencing excruciating pain at the hands of abortionists,” said Rose Mimms, director of Arkansas Right to Life, which lobbied extensively for the bill. “In a clear, unmistakable voice, first the House, then the Senate objected to Gov. Beebe’s support of elective, non-therapeutic abortion at any time for any reason using any method — even when the human sensation of pain is at its greatest level — in procedures that pull their tiny body apart limb by limb.” Mimms noted that medical evidence has established that the unborn can feel pain by at least the 20th week.

In an open letter explaining his veto of the 20th-week bill, Gov. Beebe wrote that “because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, non-therapeutic 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 expressed his concern over lawsuits the state might face against the law, noting that “the adoption of unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State. Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party — in this case, the State — having to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant.”

Recalled Beebe:

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Photo of Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock, Arkansas

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