February 7, 2013 — Arkansas Sen. Jason Rapert (R) on Tuesday said he would amend a bill (SB 134) that would ban abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detectable so that physicians may use an abdominal, rather than a transvaginal, ultrasound to try to detect the heartbeat, the AP/Politico reports.
Even with the change, Rapert's bill would set the earliest abortion ban in the nation. An abdominal ultrasound can detect a fetal heartbeat around 10 to 12 weeks of pregnancy, compared with about six weeks when a transvaginal ultrasound is used, according to the AP/Politico. The bill would allow exceptions to the abortion ban in cases of rape, incest and to save a woman's life.
Rapert said the change seeks to address concerns raised by other lawmakers after the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee voted to delay consideration of the proposal, which the Senate approved last week.
Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and House Speaker Rep. Davy Carter (R) have both questioned the constitutionality of the measure. Opponents have noted that the bill violates Roe v. Wade, which bars states from banning abortion before viability.
Bettina Brownstein, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said Rapert's proposed change does not resolve the issue. "Twelve weeks is not going to pass constitutional muster," she said, adding, "Twelve weeks is still going to ban a large percentage of abortions."
State Rep. John Burris (R), chair of the House committee that postponed the bill, said, "The threat of litigation is not a reason to not pass a bill" (AP/Politico, 2/5).