LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas soon will have the nation’s most restrictive abortion law — a near-ban on the procedure from the 12th week of pregnancy — unless a lawsuit or court action intervenes.
Lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Legislature defied Gov. Mike Beebe, overriding the Democrat’s veto. The House voted 56-33 Wednesday to override Beebe’s veto, a day after the Senate voted to do the same.
The votes come less than a week after the Legislature overrode a veto of a separate bill banning most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy. That bill took effect immediately after the final override vote, whereas the 12-week ban won’t take effect until this summer.
Abortion rights proponents have said they’ll sue to block the 12-week ban from taking effect. Beebe warned lawmakers that both measures would end up wasting taxpayers’ money with the state defending them in court, where, he said, they are likely to fail.
The measures’ supporters, who expected court challenges, were undaunted.
“Not the governor, nor anyone else other than the courts, can determine if something is constitutional or unconstitutional,” Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Hot Springs, said in urging his colleagues to override Beebe.
Bill sponsor Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican from Conway, watched the vote from the House gallery and said a number of law firms have offered to help the state defend the laws in court, if it comes to that.
“I’m just grateful that this body has continued to stand up for the bills that have passed. The eyes of the entire nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today,” he said.
Beebe rejected both measures for the same reasons, saying they are unconstitutional and that they contradict the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion until a fetus could viably survive outside the womb.
A fetus is generally considered viable at 22 to 24 weeks.