LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – Democratic Governor Mike Beebe on Monday vetoed legislation that would ban most abortions in Arkansas after 12 weeks of pregnancy, a restriction that would be the most severe in the nation.
The bill’s supporters say they plan to seek a vote on Tuesday to override Beebe’s veto, which would require only a simple majority in Arkansas.
Beebe said in a veto letter that the bill “blatantly contradicts” the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court, and he questioned the potential cost to taxpayers of defending it against legal challenges.
Under a law that took effect February 28, Arkansas bans most abortions after 20 weeks. The essential difference between that law and the legislation vetoed by Beebe on Monday is the number of weeks.
The newest legislation, the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, would ban most abortions at about 12 weeks of pregnancy, once a fetal heartbeat can be detected by a standard ultrasound. It includes exemptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and major fetal conditions. Doctors who violate the prohibition would have their licenses revoked by the state Medical Board.
“This would be the earliest abortion ban in the country. It would be a very severe restriction on access to abortion,” said Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.