Gov. Mike Beebe on Monday vetoed a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation.
Senate Bill 134, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, would have banned abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill would require any woman considering abortion after 12 weeks to receive an abdominal ultrasound to determine whether there is a heartbeat.
The bill includes exemptions for rape, incest or medical conditions that would not allow the fetus to live long after birth.
The Arkansas Department of Health shows that 815 abortions, or roughly 20 percent of all abortions, took place in Arkansas in 2011 at or after 12 weeks of gestation. The department shows a total of 4,033 abortions took place in 2011.
Beebe vetoed House Bill 1037 on Feb. 26., which banned most abortions after 20 weeks. The Arkansas House and Senate passed simple majorities last week to override Beebe's veto, making HB1037 state law.
In a letter Monday afternoon, Beebe cited the same reasons for vetoing Senate Bill 134 as he did in vetoing House Bill 1037.
"In short, because it would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability," Beebe wrote. "Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court."
Beebe continued that adopting unconstitutional laws would be costly to taxpayers.
"It has been suggested that outside groups might represent the State for free in any litigation challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 134, but even if that were to happen, that would only lessen the State's own litigation costs," Beebe wrote. "Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party, in this case the state, being ordered to pay the costs and attorneys' fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant."
Beebe cited the last litigation fight in Arkansas over abortion, Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Jegley in 1999, which he stated cost Arkansas around $147,900. Beebe said litigation costs have risen since 1999, and said if Senate Bill 134 becomes law the cost to taxpayers, "will likely be significantly greater."
Read more in Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.