[JURIST] Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe [official website] on Tuesday vetoed [press release] the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act [HB 1037, PDF] which would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. The bill was approved by the Arkansas House of Representatives last Thursday and approved by the Senate [JURIST reports] just days prior to that. Beebe asserted that the proposed law was unconstitutional, stating that by imposing “a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent” and that the adoption of unconstitutional laws was expensive to the state and its taxpayers. He stated that the last case in Arkansas challenging the constitutionality of an abortion statute cost Arkansas over $148,000 in 1999, and that because of the rising litigation costs a similar suit could be more costly to taxpayers. Beebe’s veto can be overridden [AP report] by a simple majority from the lawmakers.
Beebe has said that he would veto an earlier bill [SB 134, PDF] banning all abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat [JURIST report]. That bill has been amended several times between the Arkansas House and Senate and is currently re-referred to committee [materials]. The current proposed legislation would make Arkansas the eighth US state to ban or restrict abortions after 20 weeks. Similar laws restricting reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] are currently facing legal challenges in Arizona and Georgia [JURIST reports].