The Last Word | March 06, 2013
O'DONNELL: In the Spotlight tonight, banning abortion . The Arkansas legislature wants the state to have the most restrictive abortion ban in the country. The Republican led state house voted today 56 to 33 to override Democratic Governor Mike Beebe 's veto on the law known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act . The state Senate voted to override the governor's veto Tuesday. The law bans abortions after 12 weeks if a fetal heartbeat is detected, but it includes exemptions for rape, incest and if the mother's life is at risk, and disorders that would cause the baby to die soon after birth. The law is scheduled to take effect this summer. House Republican co- sponsors of the bill were seen in the hallways today giving each other pats on the back after this victory. They had this to say.
STATE REP. JASON RAPERT (R), ARKANSAS : The eyes of this nation has been on the Arkansas House of Representatives today. And the eyes of this nation has seen that people are ready for a change. STATE REP. ANN CLEMMER (R), ARKANSAS : We're not eliminating choice at all. We're just saying after 12 weeks , the choice is over.
O'DONNELL: Planned Parenthood 's Cecile Richards released this statement: "we are deeply disappointed that the Arkansas legislature voted to impose the most restrictive ban on safe and legal abortion in the country. The majority of Arkansans and the majority of Americans don't want politicians involved in a woman's personal medical decisions about her pregnancy. Governor Beebe rightfully vetoed this legislation and the legislature would have been wise to let the veto stand, as this bill is clearly unconstitutional ." Governor Beebe said he had vetoed the measure because he also believes it is unconstitutional and would result in expensive legal challenges. Tonight, the ACLU tells "Politico" it will partner with the Center for Reproductive Rights to challenge the new law. Joining me now is Irin Carmon , staff writer for Salon.com , and Martha Plimpton , Emmy nominated actress and co-founder of A Is For , a campaign which protects -- works to protect women's reproductive rights . Martha , the thing that is so strange about this is it is in clear violation of Roe versus Wade , which is the Constitution law of the land . And so here you have a legislature that is simply voting its state , as the governor has told them, into an expensive legal process that, as the law stands today, is going to cost them a lot of money. And they're going to lose. MARTHA PLIMPTON , ACTRESS/ACTIVIST: Well, yes, they are going to lose. But I think what's important to note here is that this is part of an ongoing trend. And this is just the most extreme end we've seen be successful up to this point so far. I mean, last year, 43 bills passed in houses in states all over the country. You know, 19 states passed laws. This was a record year that was surpassed only by the previous year. 2011 was the big record year for anti-choice legislation. This is the most extreme law we've seen. It's the most restrictive. But let's face it, women's reproductive lives are the most heavily legislated area of medicine in the United States today. And so we shouldn't be surprised that these moves are being made. We shouldn't be surprised that they're trying to gain ground. What we need to do is remain vigilant and be grateful that people like the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU are fighting them.
O'DONNELL: Irin , a U.S. federal judge struck down just today an Idaho law which bans most abortions after 20 weeks , one that was -- allowed even more than this one does. What do these legislators think the federal judges are going to do when these cases come to them? IRIN CARMON, SALON.COM: Lawrence , we have a national trend which is a race to the bottom in state legislatures around the country. Arkansas is really interesting because it's Republican controlled for the first time since reconstruction. What do they do the moment they get in? They race to pass a flagrantly unconstitutional abortion ban. Basically what's happening is that throughout all of these Republican controlled states, they are setting bait, with the hope that they will be able to get the case that will challenge Roe v. Wade at the Supreme Court . What's interesting is that a previous version of this Heartbeat Bill , when it was proposed in Ohio , the state senator -- the Senate majority leader wouldn't even bring it to a vote because he said, Romney lost. Meaning, it is going to get laughed out of court. It's going to get laughed out of lower federal courts . It is going to get laughed out of the Supreme Court . The problem is that may not be true in the future. Obama has had a really hard time getting his federal judges appointed. We don't know what's going to happen after President Obama . So we're looking at a very dogged strategy. They're going to set all the bait they can. And their hope is to ban abortion absolutely, for all woman in every state .
O'DONNELL: And Roe versus Wade allows for abortions up to 22, 24 weeks . So when they cut this down to 12, as they're trying to do in Arkansas , that actually will affect about 20 percent of the abortions in Arkansas . About 80 percent of them are performed before 12 weeks . So they're out of this problem area, Martha . But that's a significant incursion into women's rights when you're getting in there and saying, 20 percent of the very difficult abortion decisions that women have made in this state , we're not going to allow them to make that anymore.
PLIMPTON: Well, I think Arkansas State Representative Anne Clemmer said it best for those who agree with her, when she said that each 12- week fetus is a full human being , a full person with all rights, and has the right to be protected, and I quote, "even from its own mother." And I think we're talking about a very dangerous kind of ideological strain of thinking here, that essentially says that once a woman becomes pregnant, she somehow relinquishes her Constitutional rights . She is no longer a fully protected citizen of these United States . And she is now subjugated to the rights of the fetus or the potential life that she may be carrying. And what the people who voted to veto this governor's decision in Arkansas today aren't realizing is that you cannot restrict access to an essential health care service and somehow magically make the need for that service disappear. This is not going to end abortion before 13 weeks or 12 weeks in Arkansas , which is when the majority of abortions do take place in Arkansas , before 13 weeks . This is simply going to drive it underground, make it more dangerous, and risk women's health. And it's going to compromise their relationships with their doctors. It's going to compromise their relationship with their government. And you know, goodness knows what it's going to do to doctors who decide that they don't want to observe this ban. This is really -- this is about controlling women's decisions on a state level. And that is fully and wholly inappropriate. It is not the state 's role to decide when or if a woman has a child, the end.
O'DONNELL: Martha Plimpton and Irin Carmon , thank you both for joining me tonight.
CARMON: Thanks, Lawrence.
PLIMPTON: Thank you.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, the ramblings of Rand Paul . And a video