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Arkansas legislature approves bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

The Arkansas House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday voted 80-10 in favor of a bill [HB 1037, PDF] that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life. The bill, commonly referred to as The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was approved [JURIST report] in a 25-7 vote by the Arkansas Senate [official website] earlier this week. The House of Representatives previously approved [JURIST report] a version that only allowed exemptions where the mother's life was threatened. Representative Andy Mayberry (R) [personal website], who first proposed the bill, conceded to the amendments under pressure from the Democratic minority in the Senate. Governor Mike Beebe (D) [official website] has said he has constitutional concerns [AP report] about the bill, but has not confirmed whether he will veto the legislation.

Though Beebe has yet to comment on his plans regarding this bill, he has said that he would veto an earlier bill [SB 134, PDF] banning all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat [JURIST report]. This bill has failed to garner enough votes to pass the House. The current proposed legislation would make Arkansas the eighth US state to ban or restrict abortions after 20 weeks. Similar laws are currently facing legal challenges in Arizona and Georgia [JURIST reports].

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