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STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Oklahoma Senate Approves Omnibus Antiabortion Bill, Sends Measure to Gov. Henry

STATE POLITICS & POLICY | Oklahoma Senate Approves Omnibus Antiabortion Bill, Sends Measure to Gov. Henry
[April 11, 2008]

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday voted to approve a bill (SB 1878) that combines several previously passed antiabortion measures, the Tulsa World reports. The bill was sent to Gov. Brad Henry (D) for consideration. Henry spokesperson Paul Sund said the governor would withhold judgment on the bill until he reviews it. Final approval of the measure was needed in the Senate after the House passed an amended version earlier this month (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 4/10). The Senate voted 37-11 to approve the amendments in the House version and then voted 38-10 to give final approval to the bill (SB 1878 bill history, 4/10).

Under the measure, health care workers would have the right to refuse to participate in acts that are contrary to the person's religious beliefs or moral convictions, and employers would not be able to "discriminate" against health care workers who exercise this right to refuse. The measure also would require an ultrasound prior to a woman obtaining an abortion, with an explicit provision that allows a woman to avert her eyes. In addition, the bill specifies that only physicians can prescribe mifepristone and that the physician must promptly provide a written report of adverse events to appropriate state medical boards.

The bill also requires 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." Another section of the proposed law requires that a physician must 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" (Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 4/4).

Rep. Pam Peterson (R), sponsor of the House version of the bill, said, "This legislation enacts several common-sense reforms respecting the sanctity of life that have been embraced by members of both political parties." Opponents of the measure said it is punitive to women to require them to undergo an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. They also criticized the bill for not exempting rape survivors and incest from the requirements. Sen. Jeff Rabon (D) said the bill "would dehumanize and humiliate women." Sen. Jim Wilson (D) said the state could reduce abortions by eliminating poverty and providing better education. "We see these bills every year, and we don't make any progress," Wilson said, adding, "All we do is demean women and beat people up, and we think somehow we can stop abortions from happening" (Jenkins, AP/, 4/9).