by Steven Ertelt
May 24, 2007
Oklahoma City, OK (LifeNews.com) — Gov. Brad Henry has allowed a bill to become law that would get the state government out of the abortion business. The measure would prohibit abortions at state-funded medical facilities and it Henry decided not to veto it after rejected a previous measure the legislature approved.
After the veto, state lawmakers reworked the bill to add rape and incest exceptions to it to meet Henry’s ban.
They left alone provisions that prohibit Medicaid-funded employees or facilities from promoting abortions because they are funded with state taxpayer dollars.
In a press release the governor’s office sent out, Governor Henry said he didn’t sign the bill because “it has not fixed all of the problems in SB 714."
He said that he wanted the bill to allow doctors at state-funded medical centers to be able to do abortions in cases when the baby has a medical condition that would result in her death soon after birth.
“Although I will allow SB 139 to become law without my signature, I would also challenge its proponents to work with the medical community and other interested parties to address the lethal birth defect issue in the next legislative session,” Henry said.
Oklahoma is the 32nd state to prohibit the use of state funds for abortion except in instances where a woman’s life is in danger or in cases of pregnancy due to rape or incest, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
After the initial veto, Sen. James Williamson, a Republican from Tulsa, led two override attempts that failed on a 31-17 margin, because 32 votes are necessary to override.
Pro-life advocates supported the changes in the bill and were confident that they have the votes to override had Henry decided to veto it again. Tony Lauinger, the head of Oklahomans for Life, told LifeNews.com that the passage of the measure is a "major victory for the unborn child."
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.
But 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.
Lauinger previously 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."
In 2005 6,632 abortions were done in Oklahoma — an 8 percent drop from the 7,183 abortions done in 2000.