Arkansas OKs strict limits on abortion

Arkansas has the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban after the Republican-dominated state House voted Wednesday to override the governor’s veto.

The measure, Senate Bill 134, bans most abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected, but it includes exemptions for rape, incest, if the mother’s life is at risk and disorders that would cause the baby to die soon after birth.

The law, Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, will take effect this summer.

The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday overrode Monday’s veto by Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat.

“The eyes of this nation (have) been on the Arkansas House of Representatives today. And the eyes of this nation (have) seen that people are ready for change,” said the measure’s GOP sponsor, Sen. Jason Rapert, the Arkansas Democrat reported. “Again, if there’s a heartbeat, there’s life, and we’re going to stand up for this law, regardless of who opposes it.”

Last week, the Legislature overrode another abortion-ban veto by Beebe. That bill, House Bill 1037, bans most abortions after 20 weeks, with the same exceptions, and became law with the Feb. 26 override.

Of the 4,033 abortions in the state in 2011, 20 percent occurred at or after 12 weeks, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union for Arkansas, said the ACLU would file a lawsuit “as soon as possible.

Planned Parenthood condemned the veto override.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Arkansas Legislature voted to impose the most restrictive ban on safe and legal abortion in the country,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

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