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House overrides Beebe veto on 12-week abortion ban

by David Harten | March 6, 2013 at 1:51 p.m. | Updated March 6, 2013 at 5:16 p.m.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, speaks in the senate chamber at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, March 5, 2013. The Arkansas Senate voted Tuesday to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of Rapert's legislation that would ban most abortions from the 12th week of pregnancy onward and would give the state the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

The Arkansas House of Representatives has voted 56-33 to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks' gestation.

Only a simple majority was needed to override Beebe's veto after the Senate on Tuesday voted 20-14 to do so.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, bans abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected. It will go into effect this summer.

"I can tell you today I'm grateful," Rapert said after the vote. "The eyes of this nation [have] been on the Arkansas House of Representatives today. And the eyes of this nation [have] seen that people are ready for change. I've heard from them .... Again, if there's a heartbeat, there's life and we're going to stand up for this law, regardless of who opposes it."

The law was originally vetoed by Beebe on Monday.

Rep. Ann V Clemmer, R-Benton, along with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, spoke in favor of the override in front of the committee on Monday, prior to the vote.

"I'm very happy, relieved," Clemmer said. "I mean, any other adjective. But I mean, it's a serious matter. I'm not having a victory dance here. I hope the court listens to us."

In an interview Tuesday with Arkansas Online, Rapert said he spoke with House members earlier that day who said they would support the bill in the override vote.

Outside the chamber, Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union for Arkansas, said the ACLU will move for litigation of the law "as soon as possible."

"It shows a disregard for women as human beings," Sklar said. "In fact, Representative Klemmer said, to my amazement, that a 12-week-old fetus has the right as a fully human person to protect itself against its own mother. Let's remember that at 12 weeks, a fetus cannot live outside its mother and pregnancy affects the mother's health, the well-being ... there are lots of reasons to have abortions and they should remain with the woman, her family and her doctor, and not give the choice over to the government."

Senate Bill 134 was the second abortion ban to be vetoed by Beebe and then overridden by lawmakers in as many weeks.

House Bill 1037, which banned abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, with some exceptions, was vetoed on Feb. 26. Lawmakers last week overturned the veto and made that bill law.

Beebe has said he vetoed the bills because he believes they are unconstitutional and will spur costly lawsuits.

The Arkansas Constitution states the policy of the state is "to protect the life of every unborn child from conception until birth, to the extent permitted by the Federal Constitution."

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.

Read more about this story in Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


Beebe vetoes Senate Bill 134



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