By Greg Botelho
(CNN) — Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed a bill Monday afternoon that would have prohibited abortions if a fetus’s heartbeat could be detected 12 or more weeks into a pregnancy.
Called the “Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act,” the bill would have required testing to determine “whether the fetus that the pregnant woman is carrying possesses a detectible heartbeat.”
Abortions would have been banned if the fetus had a detected heartbeat “and is under 12 weeks or greater gestation.”
In a statement, Beebe claimed the measure “blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution.” He also said that its passage could have proven “very costly to the taxpayers of our state,” given possible legal challenges to it.
“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,” the Democratic governor said. “Those costs and fees can be significant.
The bill could still be enacted if the state legislature overrides the veto. It passed the state Senate by a 26-8 vote and the House by a 68-20 vote.
State Rep. Andy Mayberry, the bill’s lead sponsor, said the veto process should begin soon.
“I am certainly disappointed in Governor Beebe’s decision to veto this life-saving, life-affirming bill,” Mayberry said in a statement from the National Right to Life advocacy organization. “The next stage of the legislative process gives the General Assembly the opportunity to override the governor’s veto, and that’s how we plan to proceed.”
Even with that prospect, pro-choice groups cheered the governor’s veto. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President Jill June said this was the second time in two weeks that “Beebe has been forced to veto an unconstitutional abortion ban.” Beebe also vetoed a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, but it was overridden by the state legislature.
“The sole focus of the Arkansas legislature this session thus far has been taking away a woman’s private and personal medical decisions,” said June. “Enough is enough.”
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