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Ark. House overrides abortion bill veto

March 6, 2013 at 6:10 PM   |   Comments

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., March 6 (UPI) -- The Arkansas House of Representatives voted 56-33 Wednesday to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a bill banning most abortions after 12 weeks of gestation.

Beebe vetoed the measure Monday and the state Senate voted 20-14 Tuesday to override it Tuesday. With the House's action, the law is to go into effect this summer, although abortion-rights advocates said they would challenge it the courts, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The law will ban abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican, said he was "grateful" for the outcome of the override vote, the newspaper reported.

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

Rep. Ann V. Clemmer, also a Republican, said she was "very happy" and "relieved" by the vote.

"But I mean, it's a serious matter. I'm not having a victory dance here. I hope the court listens to us," she said.

Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union for Arkansas, said the organization would go to court "as soon as possible" in an attempt to stop it.

"It shows a disregard for women as human beings," Sklar said. "In fact, Representative Clemmer 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."

The Legislature last month overrode a veto by Beebe of a bill that banned abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, with some exceptions.

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

State health statistics show in 2011 815 abortions -- about 20 percent of the 4,033 abortions in Arkansas that year -- took place at or after 12 weeks of gestation.

Topics: Mike Beebe
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