Fetuses, fetuses and more fetuses: Anti-abortion bills win Arkansas legislative approval

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The House calendar this afternoon is loaded with the Stepford Republican Caucus' grand obsession:

* 20TH-WEEK ABORTION BAN: Rep. Andy Mayberry's bill to ban several dozen late-term abortions in Arkansas every year by making them illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no consideration for a mother's health or the grave fetal problems that prompt these abortions. The bill is based on the disputed theory of fetal pain and using the work of a doctor who says his work has nothing to do with abortion. Not that facts matter. UPDATE: The action today gave House concurrence to a Senate amendment to allow rape and incest exceptions. They were added 80-10, which completes action on the bill. Gov. Mike Beebe has indicated constitutional objections, but hasn't said if he'll sign it or not.

* CASTLE DOCTRINE FOR PREGNANT WOMEN:
Sen. Gary Stubblefield's bill
allows a woman to kill someone she believes is threatening the well-being of her fetus. No retreat is necessary. She may shoot on perception of what she "reasonably believes" is a threat sufficient for use of force. REMINDER: Sen. Jim Hendren has a bill coming to push definition of unborn child up to the zygote stage, opening the door for fetus-defense shootings within hours after sex. Be warned. CORRECTION: Stubblefield's bill already had the zygote covered. Hendren's bill, in addition to changing the definition of child for the criminal code, also opens the door to wrongful death lawsuits from the moment an egg is fertilized. Women already had a right of self-defense. Bill described as effort to close gap in law, apparently based on an isolated case in Michigan. UPDATE: It passed 93-0.

* 12TH WEEK ABORTION BAN: Jason Rapert goes Andy Mayberry eight weeks better with a bill that prohibits abortion if a hearbeat can be detected. Rape, incest and fetal abnormalities are excepted, among other amendments. The bill is more clearly unconstitutional than Mayberry's, a version of which has won approval from one lower court. The U.S. Supreme Court rulings in multiple cases still say that states may not prohibit a woman's right to choose an abortion before the ability of a fetus to live outside the womb, generally around 24 weeks. Rep. Ann Clemmer, who once claimed to be a Rockefeller Republican, described this bill, unbelievably, as middle ground and a compromise. It would be the most far-reaching limitation on abortion rights in the country with the 12-week cutoff, except for what she called "extreme" circumstances. She called it also a way to "rein in elective, late-term abortions." There's no way to describe this but a bald-faced lie because it would ban hundreds of early term abortions.

Rep. John Edwards spoke against the bill, beginning by saying, "I support the Constitution." The rule of law is important, he said. Courts have ruled on the subject more than once, he said. He said he had decided "to trust women on this issue and place my faith in the Constitution."

Rep. Kim Hammer said there's a higher court than the Supreme Court and "it is ruled by God." He said the bill protected women who are victims. "I ask you to protect that baby ... from becoming a victim."

Rep. Homer Lenderman, who voted for the Mayberry bill, said Arkansas Right to Life does not support the bill and he doesn't either, because it's unconstitutional and would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in legal fees. Rep. Bob Ballinger said Right to Life also did not oppose the bill and he said he and others would take defense of the case "pro bono." He used the favorite anti-abortion argument that slavery was once allowed as was segregation. He said people who are "pro-life" have "no choice" but to challenge the law.

Rep. Patti Julian said the bill takes choices away from women. She related how a "pro-life" obstetrician had asked her why the legislature was spending time and money to litigate decided issues.

UPDATE: Bill passed 68-20, with two present. It goes to the governor after the Senate concurs in House amendments. He has said repeatedly that it's unconstitutional. He's unlikely to sign it. But, given the vote, will he veto it?

Here's the roll call. The nays:

C. Armstrong E. Armstrong J. Dickinson J. Edwards Ferguson Fielding
Hodges Julian Leding Love McElroy McGill
Murdock Nickels Perry Sabin D. Whitaker Williams
Word Wright

ON THE JUMP: Comment from the Center for Reproductive Rights:

Today the Arkansas House of Representatives approved an amended version of SB 134, a measure banning all abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy with only narrow exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and to save the woman’s life.

The bill, which would be the earliest and most extreme abortion ban in the country, is now expected to head to Governor Mike Beebe’s desk if the Senate approves the House’s version of the bill.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, called on the State Senate and Governor Beebe to reject the bill:

“Let’s call this bill what it is: bumper-sticker message legislation with no chance of standing up in court, designed to dial the clock back 40 years on women’s rights.

“This extreme ban will either force women already facing tough economic circumstances to travel to a neighboring state to access constitutionally-protected health care or to turn to dangerous, clandestine options that could ruin or even end their lives.

“We strongly urge Governor Beebe to veto this archaic bill and send a strong statement to the anti-choice politicians in the Arkansas Legislature that this law is a gross violation of women’s constitutional rights.”

The Arkansas House also voted to send HB 1037 to Governor Beebe’s desk, another extreme anti-abortion bill banning abortions at 20 weeks post-fertilization. The Center for Reproductive Rights plans to send letters urging the governor to veto both bills.

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held—first in Roe v. Wade and again in Planned Parenthood v. Casey—that states cannot ban abortion prior to viability.

Last year, lawmakers in Ohio failed to pass early bans on abortion based on the detection of fetal heart tones—which can be as early as five or six weeks—after raising concerns about the likely legal battle over the law’s constitutionality. Although similar measures have been introduced already this year in North Dakota and Mississippi, no state has ever passed such a bill.

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