UPDATE: Beebe vetoes 20-week abortion bill

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed the 20 week abortion bill Tuesday afternoon.

He said in a press release that "because it would impose a ban on a woman's right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent."

Beebe made his decision after speaking with lawyers and Rep. Andy Mayberry, the bill's sponsor.

His veto letter went on to say:

"When I was sworn in as Governor I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously. "Second, the adoption of unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State. It has been suggested that outside groups or others might represent the State for free in any litigation challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 1037, but even if that were to happen, that would only lessen the State's own litigation costs. Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party - in this case, the State - having to pay the costs and attorneys' fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant. In the last case in which the constitutionality of an Arkansas abortion statute was challenged, Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Jegley, the State was ordered to pay the prevailing plaintiffs and their attorneys nearly $119,000 for work in the trial court, and an additional $28,900 for work on the State's unsuccessful appeal. Those fee awards were entered in 1999, and litigation fees and costs have increased extensively since then. The taxpayers' exposure, should HB 1037 become law, will be significantly greater. "While I must therefore veto HB 1037, I wish to express my appreciation to its principal sponsor, Representative Mayberry, for his candor and for his respect for the Governor's role in the legislative process."

Click here to read his entire letter.

The Arkansas Constitution requires only a simple majority (a 51 percent vote) in both the House and Senate to override a governor's veto. That's the same requirement that was in place to pass the bill in the first place.

Meanwhile, the governor said earlier Tuesday that he intends to sign a bill that would let faculty and staff carry concealed handguns on college campuses.

Beebe will also meet with legislators at 3:00 p.m. about what he learned on Medicaid during his trip to Washington and then will meet with the press to discuss his recent decisions on bills, including his abortion bill veto.

COMPLETE COVERAGEBills to restrict abortions pass Ark. House (Feb. 4)Ark. Senate passes 20 week abortion ban (Feb. 13)20 week abortion bill heads to governor's desk (Feb. 21)Beebe vetoes 20 week abortion bill (Feb. 26)House votes to override governor's veto (Feb. 27)Ark. Senate overrides veto on abortion bill (Feb. 28)Roll call from veto vote in Ark. Senate (Feb. 28)Beebe: Override doesn't change concerns about abortion ban (Feb. 28)Override of Beebe's veto may open state to litigation (March 4)Many unsure who would police 20 week abortion ban (March 5)