Democratic Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday he will veto a bill that would ban most abortions in the state at 20 weeks into a pregnancy.
On Tuesday afternoon, Beebe released a "veto letter" that said he vetoed the measure because "it would impose a ban on woman's right to choose an elective, non-theraputic abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent. 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."
The bill passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature is based on the disputed belief that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks. It includes exemptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Beebe said previously that he had constitutional concerns about the 20-week ban and said in an emailed statement that he would veto the bill. Opponents say it runs afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion until the point where fetuses can survive outside the womb, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Lawmakers can override Beebe's veto with a simple majority.
The House approved the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Andy Mayberry, on an 80-10 vote last week. It had been previously approved by the Senate.
While the bill makes an exception for cases where the mother's life is in jeopardy, it does not have an exemption for cases in which the fetus has a fatal disease or disorder.
Beebe said he met with Mayberry before making his decision.
Mayberry's bill is one of two abortion measures under consideration by the Legislature, which has a Republican majority for the first time since Reconstruction.
The second bill bans abortion at the point in which a heartbeat can be detected using an abdominal ultrasound — typically about 12 weeks into a pregnancy. That bill has already passed both chambers but is headed back to the Senate on Wednesday for lawmakers to vote on amendment that includes an exemption for fatal fetal disorders.
The House already approved the version with the amendment.
The original version of the "heartbeat" bill passed the Senate 26-8.