Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has vetoed a new law that would restrict abortions at 12 weeks. This is the second time that Beebe has attempted to overturn an abortion law despite an overwhelming majority, on the grounds that both laws are "unconstitutional."
The newest legislation, the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, is an attempt to prevent abortions after an unborn child has developed a heartbeat, which can be as soon as six weeks into pregnancy. The 12-week restriction would include exemptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and major fetal conditions.
In February Beebe also vetoed a 20-week abortion restriction, a decision lawmakers quickly overrode. Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives had voted 75 to 20 in favor of the legislation. Republican Rep. Andy Mayberry defended House Bill 1037, stating that it protected the "most basic and essential of human rights."
Lawmakers have now expressed hope that Beebe's veto could be overturned for a second time.
"It's not a surprise. Given the opportunity to save lives of unborn children, this governor has always chosen this session to say, 'No,'" Sen. Jason Rapert, the Republican from Conway who proposed the 12-week ban, told the Associated Press. "I'm disappointed for all of the unborn children that could have been saved in this bill, but I have faith that the 70 percent of the Legislature that voted to pass the bill will be there to override this veto."
Beebe argued that his priorities were to protecting and defending the constitution, adding that the 12-week abortion restriction, Senate Bill 134, conflicted with a woman's right to chose.
"Because it would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability, Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court," Beebe said in his veto letter, referring to the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. "When I was sworn in as governor I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously."
The Roe vs. Wade case legalized abortion until a fetus could survive outside the womb. The youngest fetus to survive in such circumstances was 21 weeks and 5 days old.