April 28, 2014 — The Oklahoma House last week passed a bill (SB 1848) that would place increased restrictions on abortion clinics and doctors and bar embryonic stem cell research in the state, the AP/Washington Times reports.
The state Senate previously passed an earlier version of the bill that did not contain the stem cell research restriction. After adding the stem cell research amendment, the state House on Thursday approved the measure in a 75-15 vote. The bill now returns to the Senate for consideration of the amendment (Talley, AP/Washington Times, 4/24).
SB 1848 would require the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions. In addition, the bill would require physicians who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/3).
According to the Oklahoman, the bill includes "several pages" describing supplies and equipment that clinics must have in order to meet the standards.
The amendment about stem cell research would ban "nontherapeutic research that destroys a human embryo or subjects a human embryo to substantial risk of injury or death."
According to the Oklahoman, the House debate was fervent, with presiding officer state Rep. Gus Blackwell (R) at one point telling state Rep. Richard Morrissette (D) to "sit down and behave" (Ellis, Oklahoman, 4/24).
State Rep. Doug Cox (R), an emergency department doctor, argued, "The state Board of Health has no business determining medical procedures," adding, "The medical profession sets those standards."
Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said in a statement, "Abortion clinics in Oklahoma are already well regulated, and abortion is an extremely safe medical procedure." She added, "This is an attempt to close Oklahoma clinics which provide abortion care by requiring clinic doctors to have hospital admitting privileges" (AP/Washington Times, 4/24).