LITTLE ROCK Separate bills that would ban most abortions 12 weeks and 20 weeks into a pregnancy were passed by an Arkansas House committee, but one was later sent back over for a new vote after concerns were raised about the process.
Abortions would be banned after 12 weeks when a heartbeat can be detected with an abdominal ultrasound under Senate Bill 134, the second measure passed Tuesday by the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.
The measure was passed by a voice vote. Committee Vice Chair Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, asked for a roll-call vote, but chairman Rep. John Burris, R-Harrison, ruled he had already called on the next agenda item and that it was too late.
Murdock called Burris' actions an "obvious abuse of the position" of chairman. He was told he could appeal the move to the rules committee.
House Speaker Davy Carter said later Tuesday that he is sending the proposal back to a committee after the complaint over the vote.
After the House adjourned, the Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee held a special meeting concerning Senate Bill 134. The committee took a roll call, and the bill passed with an 11-5 vote. It will now return to the House.
The bill contains exemptions for cases involving a "highly lethal fetal disorder" and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Amendments to the bill provided for abortions in cases of medical emergency and removed a criminal penalty for doctors who perform abortions it bans.
Bill sponsor state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, told the committee he believes the changes have helped strike the "proper balance."
The committee on Tuesday also passed by voice vote a revised version of House Bill 1037, which would ban most abortions at 20 weeks.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, told the committee he felt it was a "good bill" that will "save some babies' lives."
Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, spoke out against Mayberry's bill, the first item on the agenda. After the hearing, she said the committee's actions were a "blatant disregard for the female population" and that the bills wouldn't hold up to lawsuits challenging their constitutionality.
"I would say it's open season in terms of lawsuits right now," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.