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Okla. House Overrides Veto of Antiabortion Bills; Senate Expected To Vote Today

Okla. House Overrides Veto of Antiabortion Bills; Senate Expected To Vote Today

April 27, 2010 — The Oklahoma Senate today is expected to override Gov. Brad Henry's (D) vetoes of two antiabortion-rights bills, a day after the House overrode the vetoes, the Oklahoman reports. Each measure requires a three-fourths majority in both chambers to override the vetoes because the bills go into effect immediately upon the governor's signature.

The first measure (HB 2780) would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a description of the ultrasound image (McNutt, Oklahoman, 4/27). The second bill (HB 2656) sought to ban so-called "wrongful life" lawsuits that allow a woman to recover damages if a physician withholds information about a pregnancy or a fetus' health that might lead a woman to have an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/26). Supporters said the measure was intended to prevent women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities, according to the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Henry has called HB 2780 flawed because it does not include exemptions for rape and incest survivors, and the Center for Reproductive Rights has said it is among the strictest antiabortion-rights measures in the U.S. Keri Parks, director of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, urged the Senate to sustain Henry's vetoes. She said, "Doctors, not politicians, should be making these medical decisions" (Talley, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/26).

Thirty-six votes are required for the Senate to override the vetoes. The Senate passed both measures last week in a 35-11 vote, with two senators absent. State Sen. Mike Mazzei (R), who has been absent most of the session because of an injury, is expected to return to vote in favor of an override (Oklahoman, 4/27). Senate Democratic Leader Charlie Laster, who voted to pass the bills, said Monday that Henry raised important issues in his veto message. Laster said he has not decided whether he will vote for an override (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/26).

The House addressed the veto overrides on its first day back in session, taking less than 10 minutes to complete both votes (Oklahoman, 4/27). Supporters of the bill said they do not share the governor's concerns about the bills' constitutionality (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/26). The chamber, in which Republicans have 62 seats and Democrats have 39, required 76 votes to override the legislation. Lawmakers voted 81-14 to override the HB 2780 veto, with one Republican voting to sustain the veto. They voted 84-12 to override the HB 2656 veto, with only Democrats voting to sustain the veto. Four Democrats and two Republicans were absent. A spokesperson for Henry said the governor has no comment on the House action and will not comment until after the Senate votes.

According to the Oklahoman, the Legislature overrode a veto of a similar ultrasound measure in 2008 (Oklahoman, 4/27). Earlier this month, Henry signed laws stating that a woman's "voluntary consent" is needed before an abortion, requiring abortion providers to post signs stating that a woman cannot be forced to have an abortion and making it illegal to perform an abortion based on the gender of the fetus, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/26).