Arkansas Republicans Override Veto, Abortion Effectively Banned After 20 Weeks


Women in the state of Arkansas are now one step closer to totally losing their reproductive rights. Not long after Governor Mike Beebe vetoed legislation that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, the House and Senate overrode the veto.

HB 1037 immediately went into effect after the Senate voted to override the veto 19-14 on Thursday. The House had already overridden the veto by an overwhelming margin the previous day.

The law now bans most abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Republicans pushed the bill through by using dubious claims that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks, even though there is no scientific evidence to prove such a claim. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, “the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it knows of no legitimate scientific information supporting the idea that a fetus experiences pain.” The Journal of the American Medical Association has also found that fetal pain is unlikely to occur before the third trimester.

Now that the 20 week ban is law, challenges to the law are certain to be filed. Governor Beebe vetoed the law because it is unconstitutional to ban abortion before the fetus can survive outside the womb which is around week 23 or 24, according to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. Beebe also vetoed it because it is likely to be costly to the taxpayers of Arkansas to defend the law. But Republicans don’t give a damn. In fact, they’re doubling down on their anti-abortion stance.

The Arkansas Senate passed an even more extreme abortion ban on Thursday. SB 134 bans most abortions after 12 weeks if an abdominal ultrasound detects a fetal heartbeat, and mandates that doctors who perform an abortion after 12 weeks lose their license to practice medicine. The bill passed by a vote of 26-8, and would become the most extreme anti-abortion law in the nation if it goes into effect. Governor Beebe hasn’t decided whether he’ll sign the bill or not, but it’s likely his veto wouldn’t matter anyway since Republicans dominate the legislature and would likely once again override him.

Both bills contain exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother, but that’s only a small comfort to women in Arkansas who have now lost the right to make decisions about their own bodies and are now forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term against their will.