Strictest U.S. Abortion Law Passes Over Arkansas Governor’s Veto

Arkansas lawmakers enacted the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S., banning the procedure after 12 weeks of pregnancy with certain exceptions.

The Republican-controlled Arkansas House of Representatives voted yesterday 56-33 to override a veto of the bill by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, a day after the Republican-led Senate acted on the law that makes exceptions only in cases of rape, incest, to save the life of the mother and in case of lethal fetal disorders. Beebe told lawmakers the measure was unconstitutional, the Associated Press reported. Supporters said that shouldn’t stop them from acting.

“Not the governor, nor anyone else other than the courts, can determine if something is constitutional or unconstitutional,” Representative Bruce Westerman said in urging his colleagues to override Beebe’s veto, according to the news agency.

Nine other states have adopted abortion bans at about 20 weeks, said Elizabeth Nash, states issues manager at Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based reproductive-health research group. She said such bans in Arizona, Georgia and Idaho are being challenged in court as violating the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion until a fetus could survive outside the womb, generally at about 24 to 26 weeks.

Yesterday, Idaho’s ban on abortions performed after 20 weeks was overturned by a federal judge who said the state’s law was unconstitutional and showed “clear disregard” for previous Supreme Court rulings.

“An outright ban on abortions at or after 20 weeks’ gestation places, not just a substantial obstacle, but an absolute obstacle, in the path of women seeking such abortions,” U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill in Idaho said in his decision.

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