Arkansas Capitol Almanac

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) —

Ark. Senate approves ban on abortion coverage in health exchange; Beebe says he'll sign it

Gov. Mike Beebe says he'll sign into law a ban on insurers covering abortions in the exchange created through the federal health law, as lawmakers advanced a separate bill that would ban the procedure 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

Beebe said he'd sign the restriction on abortion insurance coverage moments after the Senate gave final approval of the legislation by a 25-9 vote.

The House Public Health Committee approved a separate bill that would ban abortions if a heartbeat is detected 12 weeks into a pregnancy. The House is expected to vote on the measure next week.

The coverage ban includes exemptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. The bill also allows abortion coverage through supplemental policies, but such coverage is not available in Arkansas.

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Ark. House panel advances bill banning abortions if heartbeat is detected

A House panel has advanced legislation that would ban most abortions in Arkansas if a fetal heartbeat is detected 12 weeks into a pregnancy.

The House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee on Thursday endorsed by a voice vote the reworked version of the "heartbeat" abortion ban, sending it to the full House for consideration. The measure would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected after 12 weeks using an abdominal ultrasound.

An earlier version of the bill approved by the Senate would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy and opponents said the only way to detect a heartbeat at that point is through a vaginal probe. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe said earlier Thursday he still believes the bill is unconstitutional

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Ark. Senate approves changes intended to overcome Supreme Court ruling on death penalty

The state Senate has approved a bill that its sponsors claim will overcome the state Supreme Court's concerns about how Arkansas executes prisoners.

On a 33-0 vote, senators approved revisions to the state's injection procedures, including naming a chemical to be used. A 2009 law let the Correction Department director pick the drug. Justices threw out the law last year, saying the state constitution required the Legislature to make the decision.

Arkansas has not put anyone to death since 2005.

Of the 37 inmates on currently death row in Arkansas, eight men have exhausted their appeals and are awaiting execution, according to the attorney general — though more challenges are expected.

Gov. Mike Beebe has said he would sign a bill outlawing executions, but no such bill is expected.

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Quote of the day:

"It doesn't really change the law ... It's already under the federal law, which the exchange is created by, that's already banned."

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe on Thursday telling reporters that he'll sign into law legislation prohibiting insurers from covering most abortions in an exchange created under the federal health care law, as lawmakers advanced a separate measure banning the procedure 12 weeks into a pregnancy. The coverage ban includes exemptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother and allows abortion coverage through supplemental policies, but the bill's opponents say that option is not available in Arkansas.

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