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Arkansas senate approves bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

The Arkansas Senate [official website] on Monday voted 25-7 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, will now be sent back [Reuters report] to the House of Representatives [official website], which 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 yet to comment on whether he plans to approve this bill. On Tuesday, the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee will begin to consider the revised version of this bill as well as another bill that would restrict abortions after 12 weeks [AP report]. Current state law prohibits abortions after 25 weeks of gestation.

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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