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Arkansas governor vetoes 20-week abortion bill

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Mike Beebe on Tuesday vetoed a ban on most abortions in Arkansas at 20 weeks into a pregnancy, setting up an override fight with a Republican-controlled Legislature that has been pushing for more restrictions on the procedure.

Beebe, a Democrat, said he vetoed the ban, which is based on the disputed belief that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, because it runs afoul of the US Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion until the point where fetuses can survive outside the womb, usually at 22 to 24 weeks. The Republican sponsor of the measure said he will seek to override Beebe’s veto.

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‘‘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,’’ Beebe said.

Beebe also cited the cost of a potential lawsuit if the state enacted the ban. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has said it would probably sue if it went into effect.

Beebe’s veto comes as Arkansas lawmakers are weighing stricter legislation that would prohibit abortions at 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Beebe has said he has concerns about that legislation’s constitutionality as well. That measure is expected to go before a Senate panel Wednesday.

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