The Arkansas Senate [official website] approved a bill [SB 134, PDF] by a vote of 26-8 on Thursday that would prohibit abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, which could be as early as five weeks into the pregnancy. The bill, known as the Human Heartbeat Protection Act, would also require women to undergo a vaginal probe to detect a heartbeat. Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] announced its opposition to the bill, contending [Reuters report] that women should be able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies without interference from politicians. However, the bill's lead sponsor, Senator Jason Rapert [official profile] declared that the Human Heartbeat Protection Act was necessary to protect the unborn:
It is found and determined by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas that abortions are currently being performed in Arkansas on unborn children with detectable heartbeats; and that this act is immediately necessary because to protect the lives of unborn children with detectable heartbeats.The bill will now go to the Republican-controlled Arkansas House of Representatives [official website].
Numerous states have changed their abortion laws to restrict the availability of abortion recently, usually leading to legal challenges. In December a state judge in Georgia enjoined a law [JURIST report] banning doctors from providing abortions for women pregnant beyond 20 weeks. In November Montana voters passed a referendum [JURIST report] requiring facilities and doctors to inform parents of minors 16 to 48 hours before a planned abortion procedure. Also last month the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on a challenge to Arizona's law which, like Georgia's law, bans abortions after 20 weeks. Planned Parenthood also sued Texas [JURIST report] in October claiming that its law preventing state funding from going to any clinics affiliated with providing abortions violates another state law.