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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Oklahoma Gov. Henry Vetoes Omnibus Antiabortion Measure; Legislature Overrides Veto

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Oklahoma Gov. Henry Vetoes Omnibus Antiabortion Measure; Legislature Overrides Veto
[April 18, 2008]

The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday overrode Gov. Brad Henry's (D) veto of a bill (SB 1878) that combines several antiabortion measures, the AP/KJRH.com reports. Among these provisions is one to require physicians to perform an ultrasound on all women seeking abortions before undergoing the procedure (AP/KJRH.com, 4/17). Henry in his veto letter on Wednesday wrote that it is "unconscionable" not to exempt survivors of rape and incest from the ultrasound provision, the AP/Joplin Globe reports. "While I support reasonable restrictions on abortion, this legislation does not provide an essential exemption for victims of rape and incest," Henry said (AP/Joplin Globe, 4/16).

The veto was overridden by a 37-11 vote in the Senate and an 81-15 vote in the House after little discussion in either chamber (AP/KJRH.com, 4/17). Sen. Todd Lamb (R), who introduced the measure, said that Henry was "factually inaccurate" when he said the bill would require women to view the ultrasound. According to the legislation, physicians must provide an explanation of the ultrasound images and "display the ultrasound images so that the pregnant woman may view them."

Henry said that he knew it would be difficult to sustain the veto but that he believed "it was important to fight to protect rape and incest victims from additional distress." He added that the ultrasound requirement is "government regulation gone wrong." Henry said he does "not think it is morally responsible for the state to victimize" rape and incest survivors "a second time by forcing them to undergo an ultrasound and hear a detailed description of it after they have made the difficult and heart-wrenching decision to end their pregnancy" (AP/KJRH.com, 4/17).

The measure also will guarantee health care workers the right to refuse to participate in procedures that are contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions, and employers will not be able to "discriminate" against health care workers who exercise this right to refuse. In addition, the bill specifies that only physicians can prescribe mifepristone and that physicians must promptly provide written reports of adverse events to appropriate state medical boards.

Another section of the legislation will require that a physician inform a pregnant female minor that "no one can force her to have an abortion" and that an abortion cannot be provided "unless she provides her freely given, voluntary and informed consent." The bill also will require any "private office, freestanding outpatient clinic, or other facility or clinic" in which abortions are performed to "conspicuously" post a sign that is "at least three-quarters of an inch boldfaced type" in each patient waiting room and patient consultation room used by abortion patients. The sign must state that it is "against the law for anyone, regardless of his or her relationship to you, to force you to have an abortion" (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 4/11).