JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Big changes have come in a shortamount of time to Arkansas' abortion policy, as a near-ban on abortion is nowstate law.
Both the Arkansas Senate and House of Representatives recentlyvoted to override the governor's veto of House Bill 1037, the Pain-CapableUnborn Child Protection Act. It bans most abortions after 20 weeks into apregnancy.
Another bill with even stricter regulations has now made itto Governor Mike Beebe's desk. The governor says he has yet to decide if hewill veto Senate Bill 134, otherwise known as the Arkansas Human HeartbeatProtection Act.
This bill cleared the state Senate Thursday and would banmost abortions in the state 12, instead of 20, weeks into a pregnancy.
Governor Beebe initially vetoed the 20-week ban because hesays it was unconstitutional and violated the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v.Wade. According to the Associated Press, he told reporters Thursday that theproposed 12-week ban is even more problematic than the 20-week ban he alreadyvetoed.
Critics call the 12-week ban the 'heartbeat bill' becauseits supporters argue that a fetus should be protected from abortion once anultrasound 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 andlethal fetal conditions. It also proposes that doctors who violate the banwould lose their medical licenses.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arkansas calledfor Governor Beebe to veto this legislation too. Its written statement Thursdaysaid in part, "If enacted, the 12-week ban would be the most severe such law inthe country."
Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, alsosaid in the statement, "This bill shows an absolute disregard for the health ofthe women of Arkansas. We urge Gov. Beebe to spare our state the indignity ofpassing the strictest ban in the country and veto this bill."
Dr. Catherine Reese, a professor of public administration atArkansas State University, agrees.
"I don't like to see Arkansas taking that route and goingthat way," Dr. Reese said. "I think that probably these laws will be struckdown. In that case, is it all just a big waste of time?"
Dr. Reese discussed the recently passed laws in her Women inPolitics class. She said some of the students complained that mostly male lawmakersshould avoid legislating decisions that affect women and their bodies.
"It's total hypocrisy," she said. "[The Republicans] aregoing to say government should stay out of our lives, and yet we're going tosay we would like to legislate the most important personal decision you mayever make. We're going to tell you exactly what to do and how to make itbecause our morals and values are superior to yours."
Governor Beebe has until next week to decide if he will vetothe 12-week ban.
He says this will likely be costly to taxpayers because theywill have to fit the bill if the laws are ever challenged in court.