Despite Veto – Arkansas Enacts Toughest Abortion Law In Nation

crr_icARe_ArkansasAt the end of February, the Republican dominated state legislature overrode Democratic Governor Mike Beebe’s veto of a 20 week abortion ban, known as HB 1037. Republicans are now doubling down on their anti-abortion stance by overriding the Governor once again.

This time, Arkansas Republicans have forced into law a ban on abortion after 12 weeks, making it the toughest anti-abortion law in the country. One day after the state Senate voted 20-14 in favor of the override, the House followed suit on Wednesday, passing SB 134 via override by a margin of 56-33.

According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette,

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.

In addition to banning abortion after 12 weeks, SB 134 punishes any doctor who performs an abortion after that time period with the loss of his or her medical license and like HB 1037, the bill contains exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

Both abortion bans now stand as a direct challenge to the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that protects a woman’s right to choose and her privacy in making such decisions. The ruling clearly states that abortion can only be regulated after the point when a fetus can survive outside of the womb. The Court, and science, says that point occurs at week 23 or 24. Therefore, both Arkansas laws are plainly unconstitutional.

Court challenges against both laws are certain to be filed, which means the taxpayers of Arkansas will be forced to pay the legal bills to defend the law whether they agree with the bans or not. There’s also another concern to consider. Even though SB 134 only requires an abdominal ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat, that could change. Now that Republican lawmakers have managed to pass one fetal heartbeat bill by a huge margin, they could become emboldened to push a future bill that could ban abortion even earlier. Such a fetal heartbeat bill could mandate the use transvaginal ultrasounds in an effort to detect the heartbeat much sooner. Arkansas Republicans have already successfully passed a heartbeat bill that bans abortion at 12 weeks. It’s not exactly a leap to speculate that they may believe they can get away with banning abortion earlier.

Clearly, Arkansas Republicans have declared war on women. And it’s clear that women in Arkansas have now lost a great portion of their reproductive rights due to these two unconstitutional measures. Now these women can only hope that the judicial system halts these bans and that the Supreme Court will strike them down and side with women as they have since 1973. It’s either that, or women will have to go to the polls in droves in 2014 to punish Republicans for daring to tell them what health decisions they can make regarding their own bodies.