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NRL News
Page 13
April/May 2010
Volume 37
Issue 4-5

A Year of Pro-Life Successes in Oklahoma

BY Liz Townsend

Oklahoma pro-lifers turned judicial defeat into legislative triumph this year as they passed seven separate bills based on two omnibus laws invalidated by the courts on a technicality.

We have wonderful pro-life legislators in Oklahoma who are determined to protect unborn children, pregnant women, and health-care professionals to the maximum extent possible,” Tony Lauinger, NRLC Vice President and state chairman of Oklahomans For Life, told NRL News. “They have shown repeatedly through their life-affirming votes that they are committed to defending that most vulnerable little member of our human family, the innocent, helpless child waiting to be born.”

The courts ruled that the 2008 and 2009 laws violated the state’s single-subject rule because they contained too many dissimilar provisions. So the measures were divided into seven separate bills. Six have been enacted in 2010, and the seventh, having passed the House and the Senate, awaits final approval of the conference committee report.

So far, Gov. Brad Henry has signed four of the bills into law; Henry vetoed two others but the legislature overrode the vetoes; and one is awaiting final passage.

Two bills came from the 2009 law that was struck down.

SB 1890 prohibits an abortionist from performing an abortion “with knowledge that the pregnant female is seeking the abortion solely on account of the sex of the unborn child.” It was signed by Gov. Brad Henry April 2.

HB 3284 provides that abortions be reported, including the reasons the abortion was sought and any complications. Both houses approved the bill but in slightly different forms; it will be considered by a conference committee before final approval.

Five more bills began as part of the 2008 omnibus law.

SB 1891 affirms the right of health care professionals not to participate in abortions or other actions that cause the destruction of an innocent human life. Henry approved the bill April 2.

SB 1902 requires the abortionist to be in the room when the abortifacient RU486 is administered. This is particularly important in light of the growing evidence of a trend to set up satellite abortion clinics where the abortionist is available not in person but by video. The law also requires the woman be properly monitored subsequently. Henry signed this bill April 2 as well.

HB 3075 protects women from coercion by requiring abortion clinics to post a sign stating that it is against the law for anyone to force her to have an abortion. Minors also must be informed of their rights and sign a consent form. This bill was approved by Henry April 23.

HB 2656 denies claims for “wrongful life” lawsuits that contend that a disabled baby would have been better off if he or she had been aborted. The law states that “the birth of a child does not constitute a legally recognizable injury and that it is contrary to public policy to award damages because of the birth of a child or for the rearing of that child.” Henry vetoed this bill April 23, but the legislature overrode the veto April 27.

HB 2780 requires abortion clinics to perform ultrasounds at least one hour before every abortion and position the screen so the woman, if she wishes, can see the images. If she chooses not to see her child, the abortionist is still obliged to describe the images, including the baby’s size, heartbeat, limbs, and internal organs, if they can be seen. It was also vetoed by Henry but overridden by the legislature.

The court battle continues on this last bill, as Attorney General Drew Edmondson agreed May 3 to accept a temporary restraining order while he prepares to defend a challenge from pro-abortionists. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit claiming that the law intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Law professor Teresa Collett, who has successfully defended several Oklahoma pro-life laws in the past, as well as representing Oklahoma during the 2008 and 2009 court cases, told the AP that the bill is consistent with standard medical practice. “It would be remarkable if a woman would undergo a medical procedure and a doctor would not have an obligation to describe the procedure and the results of that procedure to the patient,” Collett said.

An eighth pro-life bill joined the other successful legislation in 2010. HB 3290, based on National Right to Life’s model statute, prohibits all health plans offered through the state exchange in Oklahoma from including coverage for elective abortions. A conference committee is currently resolving differences between the Senate and House versions of this bill.

Oklahoma pro-lifers are determined to keep working with legislators to pass more laws protecting women and their unborn children. “We will continue to try to serve the Oklahoma legislature in the future, relying on the expert guidance and help of National Right to Life’s director of state legislation, Mary Spaulding Balch,” Lauinger added.