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updated: 2/28/2013 9:57 AM

Arkansas Senate overrides veto of abortion bill

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Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Arkansas Senate voted Thursday to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe's veto of a bill banning most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy.

The Republican-led Senate voted 19-14 to override the veto with no debate, a day after the GOP-led state House voted to override the veto. A simple majority was required in each chamber.

Senate President Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville, supported an override but told reporters afterward he was unsure whether the ban would survive a constitutional challenge.

"If it was an easy answer, then people wouldn't be raising that subject," he said after the vote.

The law took effect after the Senate vote, but abortion rights supporters are expected to ask the courts to block it pending an expected lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas has already said it would challenge the law if the legislature passed it.

The law is based on the disputed claim that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks and therefore deserves protection from abortion. Seven states have enacted similar 20-week restrictions based on the fetal pain argument, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks laws affecting women's health. A similar law in Arizona has been blocked while a federal appeals court reviews a lawsuit challenging it.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says it knows of no legitimate scientific information supporting the idea that a fetus experiences pain.

Beebe said he thinks the new law contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court's 1976 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion until a fetus can viably survive outside of the womb, which is typically at 22 to 24 weeks. He said the state will waste money trying to defend it.

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