by Steven Ertelt
May 15, 2007
Oklahoma City, OK (LifeNews.com) — The Oklahoma state House has rewritten an abortion bill to attempt to satisfy Gov. Brad Henry, who earlier vetoed the measure to get the state government out of the abortion business. The rewrite comes after two attempts by the state Senate to overturn Henry’s veto failed by one vote each time.
The bill prohibits Medicaid-funded employees or facilities from promoting abortions because they are funded with state taxpayer dollars.
But Henry wanted rape and incest exceptions added to the bill so Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, a Oklahoma City Democrat, led a rewriting of another piece of legislation to make it read similar to the bill Henry vetoed.
The other change in the new bill is that it allows doctors at state-funded facilities to discuss al of the options with a pregnant woman as long as they don’t steer her towards having an abortion.
However, it did not include language allows abortions at state-funded medical centers involving babies who will likely die shortly after birth.
The state House approved the new bill on a 77-19 vote on Monday and now goes to the state Senate for its consideration.
Rep. Mike Reynolds, an Oklahoma City Republican, said that if Henry doesn’t signed this less protective version of the bill then he’s out of step with Oklahomans.
"If Governor Henry doesn’t want to sign it then he can hear from our constituency," he said. "I’m offended that anybody has to participate in murdering a child with our taxpayer dollars."
While Henry has signed into law bills limiting abortions before, he sided with the state medical association and said he worried that the bill would deny other pregnancy-related medical services to poor women.
They worried that language in the bill asking doctors not to "encourage" abortions would put too strong of a restriction on physicians and cause them not to talk about other medical procedures.
Sen. James Williamson, a Republican from Tulsa, led the original veto override vote, which failed on a 31-17 margin and tried again to get the necessary 32 to override. Thirty-one members of the Senate voted again for the override, leaving him one short a second time.
The original veto override was not successful because Sen. Charles Laster, a Democrat from Shawnee, changed his vote. Laster had previously supported the bill and voted to send it to the governor.
All of the chamber’s 24 Republicans and seven of the Democrats supported the override both times.
Doris Erhart, co-founder of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Oklahoma, said the bill was needed because Medicaid-funded doctors are encouraging parents of unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome to have abortions.
She told AP the information is "delivered in such a way as to pressure the woman to terminate her pregnancy.”
Rep. Lisa Billy, a Republican, agreed and said a doctors at state-funded facility suggested to her to have an abortion because her baby would have the disability but her son was eventually born without it.
"It’s hard to believe this is happening in our society, but it is, and we clearly need to stop taxpayers from supporting this practice,” Williamson said.
He introduced the bill after learning that the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center had done two abortions.
Tony Lauinger, the head of Oklahomans for Life, supports the bill and 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."
Before the veto override vote, Lauinger said he was worried that abortion advocates would try to pick off one of the eight Democrats who voted for the bill.
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.