Tuesday April 27, 2010

Oklahoma Senate Overrides Governor Veto of Pro-Life Legislation

By John Jalsevac

April 26, 2010 ( – Two bills putting restrictions on abortion in Oklahoma became law Tuesday morning after the Oklahoma Senate overrode Governor Brad Henry’s veto.

The governor had vetoed both bills, HB2780 and HB2656, on Friday. The House easily overrode the vetoes on Monday, before the Senate followed suit the next day.

Tony Lauinger, the state chairman of Oklahomans for Life, told in an interview Tuesday that “We are very appreciative of the wonderful pro-life actions taken by our Senate and House these past two days.”

The first of the two bills, HB2780, requires that women be given an ultrasound within an hour of their abortion, and that the sonographer must explain the results in detail. The senate overrode Gov. Henry’s veto in a 36-12 vote.

Governor Henry said last week that he believes the legislation constitutes an “unconstitutional violation of privacy.”

“State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma,” he said.

However, pro-life advocates have countered that the law simply ensures that women are given all the information necessary to give their informed consent to an abortion. Recent investigations by the group Live Action have revealed that, in many cases, women are given incomplete or grossly inaccurate information about the development of their unborn child by abortion facilities.

Rep. Lisa Billy, the sponsor of the bill, said that, “For women facing an unplanned pregnancy, there is often a sense of distress, panic and fear that can drive people to make hasty decisions without considering long-term consequences,” according to NewsOK.

“This legislation will empower those expectant mothers by giving them as much information as possible — in advance — before they make an irrevocable, life-altering decision.

“Women should have the choice to see that image, and to deny them that opportunity is baffling.”

HB2656, the second bill, would prohibit the “wrongful life” lawsuits that have become increasingly common across the West. In such cases women sue their doctors after their child is born with an abnormality that the mother claims would have led her to have the child killed through abortion, if she had known about it. The senate overrode the veto of this bill also in a 36-12 vote.

The language in both of the bills, which was drafted by the National Right to Life Committee, was originally included in a single piece of legislation passed in 2008, which was vetoed by the governor. That veto also was overridden by the legislature, but the bill was later struck down by the state Supreme Court, which decided that it violated the “single issue” rule.

That original bill has since been split up into separate pieces of legislation. Four pieces of pro-life legislation had already been passed and signed into the law by the governor prior to today’s senate vote – HB3075, SB1891, SB1890, and SB1902.

HB 3075 ensures that a mother’s consent to an abortion is truly voluntary and safeguards against coerced abortions. SB1890 prohibits abortions based upon the sex of the baby, and SB1902 makes it illegal for anyone other than a physician to provide or administer the abortion drug RU-486. SB1891, sponsored by Rep. Pam Peterson, creates the Freedom of Conscience Act, which would protect health care workers from participating in acts that violate their consciences.

Rep. Peterson told in an interview last month that the latter bill is especially important in light of the passage of the federal health care bill, which pro-life leaders have criticized for having inadequate conscience protections.

“I think in light of Obamacare passing, it’s all the more reason why the states need to step up to the plate and say – you know what? If you want to be a health care professional and you come to Oklahoma we’re going to protect that right,” she said.

One final bill, HB 3284, which provides for the reporting of abortions performed in Oklahoma, the reasons abortions are sought, and the complications that result, has also been passed by both houses, but has been referred to the House for engrossment before being passed on to the governor.

Oklahomans for Life has said about this piece of legislation that, “Knowing why women seek abortions may make it possible to solve underlying problems,” and that “The reporting of complications will allow an assessment of the untested claim that abortion is ‘safe.’”

Tony Lauinger said today that legal challenges to some or all of the pieces of legislation are “probable,” but that for now his group will simply have to “wait and see.” In reference to the two bills passed by the legislature today, however, he said that he was confident that they stood well within U.S. Supreme Court precedents.