Ark. Senate Overrides Veto, 20 Week Abortion Ban Becomes Law

Feb 28, 2013

Spectators in the Arkansas Senate gallery react to the vote Thursday to override the governor's veto.
Credit Nathan Vandiver

By a vote of 19-14, the Arkansas Senate Thursday voted to override Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The House had already voted to override the veto Wednesday, meaning the bill becomes law immediately. 

The only exceptions to the 20 week abortion ban would be for cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother. 

"It’s wonderful news," said Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, who was in the Senate Chamber for the vote.

"That law takes effect immediately, so unborn children, 20 weeks and past are going to be protected in Arkansas," Mimms said.

Governor Beebe had vetoed the bill earlier this week, saying he believed it violated the U.S. Constitution.

After the vote, Beebe said "I’ve told you my concerns and the concerns still exist, but the Legislature has the final say.  That’s the constitutional process."

Seven other states have similar laws in effect and a court challenge is expected.

"It is unconstitutional," said Bettina Brownstein, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Arkansas.

"Of course it affects women’s reproductive rights and, as you know, the ACLU is firmly committed to protecting women’s reproductive rights and health care, and so we are considering the possibility of litigation," Brownstein said.

Meanwhile a different abortion bill is now heading to the Governor’s desk.  It was approved by the Senate this morning and would ban most abortions after 12 weeks.  Beebe has also called it unconstitutional, but did not say Thursday morning yet if he would veto it.

The proposal originally would have prohibited abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, but was amended to change that timeline and add more exemptions after facing objections in the House.