It only took two days, but the Arkansas legislature is barreling ahead on its plans to override Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of the new unconstitutional bill that will ban abortions at 20 weeks. On Wednesday, the House voted 53 to 28 to override the veto, and today the Senate overrode it by a vote of 19-14. The 20 week ban went into effect immediately due to an emergency clause.
Despite Gov. Beebe’s lengthy justification for vetoing the legislation on fiscal grounds—that the state could be left footing the bill in the face of a legal challenge—bill supporters continue to argue that the bill must be constitutional because no one has challenged it yet. Bill sponsor Representative Andy Mayberry pointed to the fact that a judge upheld a similar ban in Arizona as a sign that the bill must in fact be constitutional, ignoring the fact that Georgia courts have blocked a bill in a different jurisdiction.
However, the 20-week abortion ban may be unnecessary, as the Senate also voted 26 to 8 to send the new revised Heartbeat abortion ban to the governor as well. The current version now approved by both the House and Senate will require every pregnant person to undergo a forced ultrasound, and bans abortions performed when the fetus is more than 12 weeks gestation and a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The bill allows an exception for rape, incest, life of the pregnant person or severe fetal abnormalities, which is one more exception than the 20-week ban, which will force someone carrying a severely deformed fetus to give birth regardless of her wishes.
Governor Beebe will again have the option to veto an unconstitutional abortion ban, and the legislature will again have the option to override. Considering how close the Senate vote was to override the 20 week version, there is much more of a possibility that this veto might stand.
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