Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe [official website] vetoed [press release] a bill on Monday that would have prohibited abortions 12 or more more weeks into a pregnancy if the fetus' heartbeat could be detected at that point. Known as the Human Heartbeat Protection Act [SB 134, PDF], this bill was the most recent addition to a slew of recent Arkansas legislation [JURIST news archive], including a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which was vetoed by Beebe last week and subsequently overridden [JURIST report] by the legislature. Beebe said that he vetoed the 12-week ban for the reason that "(i)n short, 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." The bill would have been the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. Despite predictions that fewer members of the legislature are expected to support another override, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has already stated its intention to challenge [AP report] SB 134 if enacted.
Numerous states have changed their abortion laws recently to impose more restrictions on the availability of abortions, leading to several legal challenges. In December a state judge in Georgia enjoined a law [JURIST report] banning doctors from providing abortions for women more than 20 weeks into gestation, which would have gone into effect in January. Montana voters in November passed a referendum [JURIST report] requiring facilities and doctors to inform parents of minors 16 to 48 hours before a planned abortion procedure on the minor. Also that month, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on a challenge to Arizona's law which, like Arkansas and Georgia's laws, bans abortions after 20 weeks. Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] also sued Texas [JURIST report] in October claiming that its law preventing state funding from going to any clinics affiliated with providing abortions violates another state law.