LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed legislation Monday that would have banned abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy, rejecting what opponents said would be the most restrictive law in the U.S.
The legislation would ban abortions 12 weeks into a pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected using an abdominal ultrasound. The Democratic governor said banning abortions at 12 weeks contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion until a fetus could survive outside the womb. A fetus is generally considered viable at around 22 to 24 weeks.
"Because it would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion well before viability, Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court," Beebe said in his veto letter. "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 Republican-led Legislature had approved the measure last week.
Beebe's comments echoed his objections to another abortion restriction he vetoed last week, which would ban the procedure in most instances at 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Lawmakers quickly overrode Beebe's veto, making the 20-week restriction effective immediately.
It takes a simple majority of the House and Senate to override a governor's veto. The sponsor of the 12-week ban said he would ask the Senate to override Beebe's veto on Tuesday.