April 27th, 2010
07:57 PM ET

Oklahoma Senate overrides vetoes to pass abortion laws

[Updated at 7:56 p.m.]  The Oklahoma Senate voted Tuesday to override the governor's vetoes and pass two strong anti-abortion measures.

One law requires women to undergo an ultrasound examination and listen to a description of what it shows before getting an abortion.

Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, a Republican, said Tuesday's vote shows lawmakers listened to Oklahoma's citizens and "made a bold statement in support of the sanctity of life."

But Democratic Gov. Brad Henry has called the legislation "an unconstitutional attempt by the Oklahoma legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of its citizens."

Henry vetoed the bill and another abortion-related measure Friday, but the state House on Monday overwhelmingly voted to override both vetoes, with House Speaker Chris Benge, a Republican, lauding his colleagues for "moving quickly." The Senate's 36-12 vote Tuesday was the final step required to make the bills laws.


[Posted at 11:27 a.m.] Oklahoma is the latest battleground in the nation's abortion war, with the state legislature threatening to override the vetoes of two abortion-related bills.

Despite Democratic Gov. Brad Henry's support for "reasonable restrictions" on abortion, he vetoed the bills on Friday.

But the state House on Monday overwhelmingly voted to override both vetoes, with House Speaker Chris Benge, a Republican, lauding his colleagues for "moving quickly."

If the state Senate overrides the legislation, the bills will become law. Senate spokeswoman Malia Bennett said the body possibly will take up the issues on Tuesday.

One bill requires women to undergo an ultrasound examination and listen to a description of it in order to get an abortion, legislation the governor says is "an unconstitutional attempt by the Oklahoma legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of its citizens."

"State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a

procedure could cause physical or mental trauma," Henry said. "To do so amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy."

Henry said one of the flaws of the bill is that it lacks an exemption for rape and incest victims.

Henry vetoed similar legislation in 2008. His veto was overridden. The State Supreme Court struck down the legislation because it contained multiple subjects, a violation of the state Constitution requiring measures to deal with single subjects, Bennett said.

The governor says the latest version of the measure is unconstitutional because it puts "government into the private lives and decisions of its citizens." He said opponents are prepared to challenge the measure again.

"Because a similar provision of law has already been struck down by the courts, this legislation will be challenged again, resulting in a costly and potentially futile legal battle for the state," he said.

The other measure prohibits pregnant women and their families from seeking legal damages if physicians "knowingly and negligently" withhold key

information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancies.

He said it is "unconscionable to grant a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform a pregnant woman in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on his patient."

Such an issue would be particularly relevant to fetuses with disabilities.

"By prohibiting recovery of damages in wrongful birth and life malpractice actions, the legislation would allow unscrupulous, reckless or negligent physicians to knowingly withhold information or negligently provide

inaccurate information to pregnant women without facing the potential of legal consequences," he said.

The House voted to override the veto of the ultrasound bill by an 81 to 14 vote, well above the three-fourths required. State Rep. Lisa Billy, a Republican, said the bill "does nothing more than give women as much

information as possible before they make the life-altering decision to have an abortion."

"I don't want a single woman to go through the life-long torture of having an abortion without having all the relevant information," Billy said.

The House voted 84 to 12 to override the veto over the legal damage prohibition. State Rep. Dan Sullivan, a Republican, said the bill "simply states that a doctor cannot be sued based on the opinion after birth that a

child would have been better off if he or she had been aborted."

"A bipartisan coalition of members supported this bill the first time, and I am pleased they did again today," Sullivan said.

Benge, the House Speaker, said, "We must move to stop the degradation of human life seen in recent years and stand up for those who cannot defend themselves."

– CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Girls Bedroom

    what i can say is that abortion is a sin and it should be deemed illegal by all means ,:'

    December 4, 2010 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
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