BREAKING: Arkansas legislators override veto and ban abortions after 12 weeks

Arkansas legislators really, really want to be the state with the most restrictive unconstitutional abortion law in the country.

The Arkansas House on Wednesday voted to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill that would ban most abortions from the 12th week of pregnancy onward, giving the state the country’s most restrictive abortion laws and setting the stage for a certain court challenge.

A day after the Republican-led state Senate voted to override Beebe’s veto, the GOP-controlled House voted 56-33 to do the same. Only a simple majority was needed in each chamber.

The vote comes less than a week after the Legislature voted to override the governor’s veto of a separate bill banning most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy. That bill took effect immediately after the final override vote, whereas the 12-week ban wouldn’t take effect until this summer.

Similar to Ohio’s so-called “heartbeat bill” that died a couple years ago, Arkansas’s ban prohibits abortions after the fetus’ heartbeat can be detected. As I reported in January, originally it would have made the cut-off at six weeks, but it was amended so that it would only require an abdominal ultrasound, not a transvaginal one.

While both the 12-week and 20-week bans are equally unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade, the former will have a bigger impact if it’s allowed to go into effect. As Sarah Kliff points out, while the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester, at 12-week ban would outlaw one in every 10 abortions in the state.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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