Breaking down the abortion bans in Arkansas - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Breaking down the abortion bans in Arkansas

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Big changes have come in a short amount of time to Arkansas' abortion policy, as a near-ban on abortion is now state law.

Both the Arkansas Senate and House of Representatives recently voted to override the governor's veto of House Bill 1037, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It bans most abortions after 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

Another bill with even stricter regulations has now made it to Governor Mike Beebe's desk. The governor says he has yet to decide if he will veto Senate Bill 134, otherwise known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act.

This bill cleared the state Senate Thursday and would ban most abortions in the state 12, instead of 20, weeks into a pregnancy.

Governor Beebe initially vetoed the 20-week ban because he says it was unconstitutional and violated the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. According to the Associated Press, he told reporters Thursday that the proposed 12-week ban is even more problematic than the 20-week ban he already vetoed.

Critics call the 12-week ban the ‘heartbeat bill' because its supporters argue that a fetus should be protected from abortion once an ultrasound detects its heartbeat.

The bill may ban most abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy, but it also contains exemptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and lethal fetal conditions. It also proposes that doctors who violate the ban would lose their medical licenses.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas called for Governor Beebe to veto this legislation too. Its written statement Thursday said in part, "If enacted, the 12-week ban would be the most severe such law in the country."

Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, also said in the statement, "This bill shows an absolute disregard for the health of the women of Arkansas. We urge Gov. Beebe to spare our state the indignity of passing the strictest ban in the country and veto this bill."

Dr. Catherine Reese, a professor of public administration at Arkansas State University, agrees.

"I don't like to see Arkansas taking that route and going that way," Dr. Reese said. "I think that probably these laws will be struck down. In that case, is it all just a big waste of time?"

Dr. Reese discussed the recently passed laws in her Women in Politics class. She said some of the students complained that mostly male lawmakers should avoid legislating decisions that affect women and their bodies.

"It's total hypocrisy," she said. "[The Republicans] are going to say government should stay out of our lives, and yet we're going to say we would like to legislate the most important personal decision you may ever make. We're going to tell you exactly what to do and how to make it because our morals and values are superior to yours."

Governor Beebe has until next week to decide if he will veto the 12-week ban.

He says this will likely be costly to taxpayers because they will have to fit the bill if the laws are ever challenged in court.

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