LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A proposal to ban most abortions in Arkansas after 20 weeks into pregnancy moved closer to the governor's desk Monday after winning Senate support, despite complaints the move would force mothers to deliver babies with fatal conditions.
The Senate approved the ban by a 25-7 vote, sending the proposal back to the House to consider an amendment adding exemptions for rape and incest. The measure already included exemptions for the life of the mother, but the other exceptions were added to win support from some Democrats.
Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has expressed concern about the constitutionality of the 20-week ban and another measure that would ban most abortions at 12 weeks, but has not said if he'll veto the bills should either reach his desk. Four Democrats joined with all 21 Senate Republicans to vote for the measure.
Opponents have said the measure is unconstitutional and would violate the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until viability, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.
Sen. Bart Hester said the 20-week ban is modeled after similar restrictions that have been enacted in several other states, including Georgia and Arizona. The legislation is based on the disputed notion that fetuses can begin to feel pain at 20 weeks.
"We in the state of Arkansas are compelled to protect life, and especially the lives that can't stick up for themselves," Hester, R-Cave Springs, told lawmakers before the vote.
The measure is among several new abortion restrictions gaining support in the Arkansas Legislature after Republicans won control of the House and Senate last year.
Sen. Joyce Elliott, who voted against the measure, criticized it for not including an exemption for fetal anomalies, or conditions that would cause the baby to die after delivery.
"I want it on the record that not all of us think we have the right to intervene between families and these awful decisions," Elliott, D-Little Rock, said.
The proposed 12-week abortion ban includes exemptions for lethal fetal anomalies, as well as for the life of the mother, rape and incest. That ban is expected to go back before the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday, after failing to clear a vote before that panel last week.
Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo