“I think a lot of people felt some pressure after the last vote,” said House Minority Leader Greg Leding, a Democrat from Fayetteville.
The measure is among several abortion restrictions lawmakers have backed since Republicans won control of the House and Senate in the November election. Republicans hold 21 of the 35 Senate seats, and 51 of the 100 seats in the House. It takes a simple majority in both chambers to override.
Beebe has signed into law one of those measures, a prohibition on most abortion coverage by insurers participating in the exchange created under the health care law.
Rep. Ann Clemmer, a Republican of Benton serving her third term in the House, asked her colleagues to support the override attempt, saying her votes on anti-abortion bills this year were the first time she could fully express a pro-life stand at the Capitol. When Democrats held control, such bills never made it this far.
“If I say that I’m pro-life, at some point I have to do something about what I say I believe,” said Clemmer, the bill’s sponsor in the House.
Unlike the 20-week ban, which took effect immediately, the 12-week restriction won’t take effect until 90 days after the House and Senate adjourn. Lawmakers aren’t expected to wrap up this year’s session until later this month or April.
In vetoing both measures, Beebe has cited the costs to the state if it has to defend either ban in court. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has vowed to sue if the state enacts the 12-week ban and the group said it was considering legal action over the 20-week restriction as well.
“I think today, for whatever reason, the Arkansas House turned its back on the women of Arkansas and said we don’t think you’re capable of making your own decisions,” said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas’ executive director. Sklar said the group planned to file suit in federal court in the next couple weeks.
Beebe noted that the state paid nearly $148,000 to attorneys for plaintiffs who successfully challenged a 1997 late-term abortion ban.
The original version of Rapert’s bill would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, but he changed the measure after facing resistance from some lawmakers worried that it would require the use of a vaginal probe.
Women who have abortions would not face prosecution under Rapert’s bill, but doctors who perform abortions in violation of the 12-week ban could have their medical licenses revoked.