Arkansas legislators approved the nation's most restrictive abortion law on Wednesday after overriding a veto by the state's Democratic governor, who said the legislation was "blatantly unconstitutional."
Senate Bill 134, known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, bans abortions involving fetuses 12 weeks or older that have heartbeats, excluding medical emergencies, and mandates an ultrasound for expecting mothers before they attempt an abortion.
In vetoing the bill Monday, Beebe said, "Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court."
The Arkansas bill defines viability not as sustainable life outside the womb -- the standard set down by the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, which doctors say comes no sooner than 23 weeks -- but as when a fetus first has a heartbeat, which comes much sooner.
The 12-week limit goes far beyond the controversial 20-week limit previously advanced by Arkansas' Legislature and antiabortion lawmakers in other states, which NARAL Pro-Choice America has called an attempt to "lure the [Supreme Court] to discard the Roe framework entirely by moving away from the viability standard established in Roe."
After Wednesday's vote, NARAL said in a statement, "It’s tragic that Arkansas lawmakers can’t understand that outlawing abortion as early as 12 weeks is not only dangerous, but a complete assault on women’s freedom and privacy."
The new standard is scheduled to go into effect this summer.
On Twitter, antiabortion lawmakers and residents applauded the bill's passage into law; opponents expressed dismay.
Vote of 56-33 by the Arkansas House overrides Gov. Beebe's veto of Heartbeat Bill. This is now the most pro-life law in the nation! #prolife— Josh Duggar (@joshduggar) March 6, 2013
Thank you to all AR legislators who voted for life today. I am so grateful. SB134 the Heartbeat Bill is now the law in Arkansas. #arleg— Sen. Jason Rapert (@jasonrapert) March 6, 2013
The Arkansas Legislature: Small government is the best because we can fit it into women's reproductive systems!— Holly (@hollye83) March 6, 2013
Yeah, on second thought, maybe I don't want to buy a house in this backward state with a legislature that hates women.— Sarah (@erniebufflo) March 6, 2013
People are decrying the abortion bill overrride, but remember the judicial branch has ways to try to shut that whole thing down #arleg— Luke Morris (@LukeMorris) March 6, 2013