Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) Arkansas could soon be home to the strictest abortion law in the country. The Senate voted Tuesday to override Governor Mike Beebe's veto of the Human Heartbeat Protection Act preventing abortions after a heartbeat is detected 12 weeks into pregnancy.
"I ask that you override this veto and make a statement for life in the state of Arkansas," pled Sponsor Jason Rapert to the Senate on Tuesday.
The Senate did override that veto by a vote of 20-14. Monday, Governor Beebe vetoed the bill saying, "Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution."
Senator Missy Irvin, who voted for the bill, said even if it did pass, constitutionality isn't up to legislators.
"The constitutionality of a bill is always subject to opinion and there is going to be opinions on both sides of that issue and so it could be brought before a court and found unconstitutional or constitutional. That's not really our role as the legislature," said Irvin.
If it passes, the bill will become the most stringent abortion legislation in the country, something Irvin said is a good thing for Arkansas.
"I'm really proud to be a pro-life person. I'm really proud to be able to cast that vote, and I really don't care what the rest of the nation says because what we have to do is legislate for Arkansas," said Irvin.
But, Senator Joyce Elliott who voted against the measure said Tuesday's vote is an intrusion of women's privacy and will cost the state thousands in lawsuits.
"This is not a pro family bill because if it were about recognizing and respecting families, we would get out of their business at this very tough time in their lives," said Elliott. ""We will end up likely having to bear the brunt of having to go to court which is surely going to happen."
The bill now heads to the House where it passed 68-20 in February. Supporters will need 51 yes votes to sign it into law--a number Senator Rapert is confident they'll get.
"I'm just asking members who voted for life the first time to vote for life again in this instance," said Rapert.
It's a vote Elliott said that either way will remain controversial.
"I'm glad it's behind us, but I don't think it's a good precedent we have set for our state," said Eilliott.
If the Heartbeat Protection Act becomes law, doctors who violate it could lose their medical license. However, the law does not subject women who violate it to any civil or criminal penalty.
The Heartbeat Protection Act does have exceptions in the cases of rape, incest and health of the mother. The House is expected to make the final vote Wednesday.