Arkansas’ GOP-controlled legislature has voted to override their governor’s veto of a “fetal pain” abortion ban, ensuring the legislation will immediately take effect. Gov. Mike Beebe (D) vetoed the measure on Tuesday, explaining he felt the 20-week ban would run afoul of women’s constitutional right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade, but Arkansas lawmakers can override the governor with a simple majority in both chambers.
Arkansas will join the seven other states that currently have “fetal pain” laws on the books, which are based on the junk science that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Under Roe v. Wade, abortion rights are protected until the point of viability, which typically occurs around 24 weeks — so fetal pain bans are an effective way to chip away at women’s reproductive rights. Two of those measures are currently being blocked from taking effect, the same constitutional challenge that Beebe suspects may await Arkansas.
“We made the best case we could in our veto letter and explained the legal problems with the law and what that could cost our people,” a spokesman for the governor told Reuters. “The final say, however, remains with the legislature.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has already pledged to challenge the new law. But the anti-choice GOP lawmakers in the state are unconcerned about potential legal challenges. The House voted 53-28 on Wednesday afternoon to override Beebe’s veto, and the Senate voted 19-14 on Thursday morning.
Unfortunately for the women in Arkansas, their Republican lawmakers may not stop there. The state is also considering an even more stringent “heartbeat” ban to outlaw the abortion procedure after just 12 weeks, at the point when a fetal heartbeat can be detected with an abdominal ultrasound. That would represent one of the harshest abortion bans in the entire nation, and the legislature could once again push it past Beebe even if he vetoes it.