February 1, 2013 — The Arkansas Senate on Thursday approved a bill (SB 134) that would prohibit abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable via a transvaginal ultrasound, which could be as early as five weeks, Reuters reports.
Under the bill, a woman seeking an abortion would be required to undergo the vaginal ultrasound. If a fetal heartbeat is detected, she would have to be told so in writing and informed that an abortion is, therefore, illegal (Parker, Reuters, 1/31). The legislation would permit exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is in danger.
If signed into law, the measure would be the earliest point in pregnancy that abortion is banned in the U.S., according to the AP/Huffington Post.
The legislation now heads to the House Public Health Committee, where it could be considered as early as next week.
Gov. Mike Beebe (D) said he is concerned the bill would violate federal law, adding, "[T]hat's the big concern right now -- does it run afoul of the Supreme Court or constitutional restrictions?"
State Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D), who voted against the bill, said, "I don't want to go back to when women used kerosene and clothes hangers because they didn't have a choice."
A day before the vote, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney told lawmakers that the organization would challenge the measure in court if it is enacted (DeMillo/Stratford, AP/Huffington Post, 1/31).