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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UPDATE Beebe vetoes 20-week abortion ban

Posted By on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 2:50 PM

The governor, showing both legal sense, fiscal wisdom and backbone, has vetoed state Rep. Andy Mayberry's bill to ban abortions at 20-weeks gestation. Read Fox 16's report here; David Ramsey will report later from the Capitol.

From the governor's news release:


"... because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic 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.

Second, the adoption of unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State. It has been suggested that outside groups or others might represent the State for free in any litigation challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 1037, but even if that were to happen, that would only lessen the State’s own litigation costs. Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party - in this case, the State - having to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant. In the last case in which the constitutionality of an Arkansas abortion statute was challenged, Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Jegley, the State was ordered to pay the prevailing plaintiffs and their attorneys nearly $119,000 for work in the trial court, and an additional $28,900 for work on the State’s unsuccessful appeal. Those fee awards were entered in 1999, and litigation fees and costs have increased extensively since then. The taxpayers’ exposure, should HB 1037 become law, will be significantly greater.

While I must therefore veto HB 1037, I wish to express my appreciation to its principal sponsor, Representative Mayberry, for his candor and for his respect for the Governor’s role in the legislative process.

The last sentence refers to Mayberry's discouraging Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to sign the legislation while Beebe was out of town last Friday.

Annie Norman and Christina Mullinax from Planned Parenthood image
  • David Ramsey
  • Annie Norman and Christina Mullinax from Planned Parenthood

Ramsey reports that a cheer went up from the close to 100 women, who were at the Capitol as part of Planned Parenthood Day.

Mayberry's bill, one of two abortion measures that have taken up an enormous amount of time and energy in this year's General Assembly, while debate on measures like Medicaid expansion are suspended, is constitutionally suspect, banning abortions a month before viability, which is the Supreme Court's standard. It does not allow for pre-term delivery of fetuses with fatal anomalies, requiring women to carry fetuses with no hope of survival outside the womb. But, as astonishingly paternalistic gynecologist Richard Wyatt told the House committee on public health, "ladies" just need gentle counseling to understand that they should carry their fetuses to whatever comes first, the mother's endangered health or the delivery of the doomed babe.

Sen. Jason Rapert's bill, SB 134, even more restrictive, banning abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat at 14 weeks (when heart cells begin to move, prior to developing into a heart), should hit the governor's desk later in the week. Beebe should veto it, too, despite the reality that vetoes on both these anti-woman bills will be overriden and the state will end up spending money defending the legislation in court.

UPDATE: Ramsey caught up with Rep. Andy Mayberry. "Certainly I was disappointed," he said. "I'd hoped that the governor would either sign it or allow it to become law without his signature.

"I do plan to seek a override of the veto. I don't know what the timeline is. I will certainly be taking a leadership role."

Regarding the governor's statement:
"According to his statement, it all centers around his constitutional concerns. Again, I thought we did a pretty good job of laying out why this bill is constitutional but he and I obviously have differing opinions about that."

Regarding concerns about the cost of litigation:
"A couple of different thoughts on that. First of all I don't think you place a price tag on protecting life. You remember the old credit card commercial, certain things are priceless. Secondly, with this particular bill, this is based on almost identical legislation in some other states, where, in two of those states it's being challenged right now. I don't know if the opposition is really going to want to challenge here when those other cases are already moving through the process and whatever takes place with those is going to apply to whatever we do in Arkansas. You'd have to talk to them about it, but I don't know if there's actually going to be a challenge in Arkansas."

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