by Steven Ertelt
April 19, 2007
Oklahoma City, OK (LifeNews.com) — Oklahoma Gov. Brad henry vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would help get the state government out of the abortion business. The measure prohibits Medicaid-funded employees or facilities from doing abortions because they are funded with state taxpayer dollars.
He followed the position of the state medical association and said he worried that the bill would deny other pregnancy-related medical services to poor women.
Henry said the veto was a difficult decision but claimed the bill “does more harm than good.”
“First and foremost, the measure is flawed in that it does not include exemptions for cases of incest and rape,” Henry said. “That means many victims of rape or incest would have no option but to carry a fetus to term, no matter how horrific and violent the circumstances."
“In addition, I share the concerns of a majority of medical experts who believe this bill would severely compromise health care in our state by placing undue restrictions on the sacred relationship between doctor and patient.”
Sen. James Williamson, the leading sponsor of the bill, told the Associated Press he was "shocked" by Henry’s veto — especially after he had signed a package of pro-life bills last year to limit abortions.
“Sadly, the governor has chosen to keep the State of Oklahoma in the abortion business,” he said.
Williamson said he would push for a veto override vote in the state legislature — something the pro-life group Oklahomans for Life supports.
Tony Lauinger, the head of the group, told LifeNews.com that Henry’s veto was "one more obstacle to be overcome in getting state government out of the abortion business in Oklahoma."
A two-thirds majority vote in the 48-member state Senate is necessary to override the governor’s pro-abortion veto.
The pro-life bill passed the Senate last week, 32-16, exactly the two-thirds margin that will be necessary to override the veto — as long as no one changes sides.
All 24 Republican senators support the bill and support the override of the veto, but Lauinger told LifeNews.com he’s worried that abortion advocates will try to pick off one of the eight Democrats who voted for the bill.
"Our job is to make sure all eight Democratic senators who have supported the bill up to now continue to do so, and that they vote to override the veto," he said.
"There is tremendous pressure on these eight pro-life Democrats from pro-abortion groups. We must make sure they hear from pro-life Oklahomans thanking them for their support for the unborn child, and asking them to continue to support SB 714 by voting to override the governor’s veto," Lauinger added.
House Speaker Lance Cargill, also told AP he was disappointed by the veto and pointed out that it came on the same day the Supreme Court upheld a ban on partial-birth abortions and authorized states to protect human life.
“I don’t think the governor’s actions are in line with the beliefs of most Oklahomans, who value the sanctity of life and are in favor of stronger protections," he said.
The House voted 73-22 for the bill, which the Senate had already approved.
During the legislative debate, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a doctor who has delivered more than 3,000 children, said he supported the bill.
He said in a statement sent to LifeNews.com that he supported the bill because it "would ensure that the tax dollars of Oklahomans are no longer used to extinguish the life of the unborn."
That the state medical society opposed the bill upset Coburn.
"The reality is that every tax dollar that is spent to perform an abortion is a dollar that has been taken away from providing medically necessary health care for patients," he said.
"More than 18 percent of Oklahoma’s population is uninsured, the seventh-highest rate in the country," Coburn added. "How can we justify spending limited public resources on abortion when our fellow Oklahomans cannot even afford basic health care?"
In 2005 6,632 abortions were done in Oklahoma — an 8 percent drop from the 7,183 abortions done in 2000.