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Strictest abortion law in U.S. passed in Arkansas

| Wednesday, March 6, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

Arkansas legislators approved the nation's most restrictive abortion law on Wednesday, overriding a veto by the state's Democratic governor, who said the legislation was “blatantly unconstitutional.”

Senate Bill 134, known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, bans abortions involving fetuses with heartbeats that are 12 weeks or older, excluding medical emergencies, and mandates an ultrasound for expecting mothers before they attempt an abortion.

The state's House of Representatives followed the Senate in voting to override Gov. Mike Beebe's veto.

“I'm just grateful that this body has continued to stand up for the bills that have passed. The eyes of the entire nation were on the Arkansas House of Representatives today,” state Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican from Conway, said after the vote.

In vetoing the bill Monday, Beebe said, “Senate Bill 134 blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.”

Shortly after lawmakers trumped Beebe's veto, the ACLU of Arkansas said on Facebook, “We'll see them in court.”

The bill defines viability not as sustainable life outside the womb — the standard set down by the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, which doctors say comes no sooner than 23 weeks — but as when a fetus first has a heartbeat, which occurs much sooner.

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