Arkansas Gov. and Legislature Locked in Fight Over Abortion Bans

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D).<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/23359853@N06/8056750090/">Winthrop Rockefeller Institute</a>/Flickr

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


In Arkansas, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe is finding himself at odds with an extreme anti-abortion legislature, vetoing one bill that would ban abortion at 12 weeks and another bill that bans them after 20 weeks. The Republican-controlled legislature overrode his veto on the 20-week ban last week, and will attempt to do so on the 12-week ban as well.

Beebe vetoed the 12-week ban, called Senate Bill 134, on Monday. The bill is “blatantly unconstitutional,” Beebe said in a statement:

In 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. When I was sworn in as Governor I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously.

Last week, Beebe vetoed House Bill 1037, a measure banning abortions after 20 weeks. But the legislature had enough votes to override his veto, making Arkansas the ninth state to impose this type of ban in the past three years. These bans contradict the Supreme Court’s previous ruling that abortion should be legal up until the point that the fetus is viable—which is usually 24 weeks or later. (The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed suit against one of those laws in Arizona.)

But Arkansas’ latest bill goes ever farther, and if the legislature overrides Beebe’s veto, it will be the strictest ban in the country. “Lawmakers in Arkansas are placing women’s lives on the line by passing the most severe ban on access to safe, legal medical care this country has seen in recent years,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a press release. “Nobody can predict what kinds of decisions a woman may have to make during a pregnancy, and it is outrageous for politicians to attempt to interfere in this serious and personal decision that a woman has to make with her family and her doctor.”

Beebe isn’t stridently pro-choice; NARAL Pro-Choice America says he has a “mixed” record. The main argument he gave for vetoing the 12-week ban is that it will cost the state a lot of money to defend the inevitable legal challenges. “The adoption of blatantly unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State,” he said, noting that a 1999 case against a previous state abortion law cost the government $147,000 in legal fees. “Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party—in this case, the State—being ordered to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant.”

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate