Oklahoma enacted one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country Tuesday when the Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that requires a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound.
A New York-based reproductive rights group quickly filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court challenging the law on the grounds that it violates a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy and constitutional rights to equal protection.
Gov. Brad Henry said the law likely would be overturned in costly litigation. He also criticized it for lacking stipulations for rape or incest victims.
In a vote of 36-12, the Senate overrode his veto and made House Bill 2780 law. The measure requires a doctor to show a pregnant woman a view of her fetus and describe in detail what is visible, including any limbs or organs.
Doctors who fail to comply with the provisions of the law would face fines and could be sued by the woman’s spouse or family members. Clinics that repeatedly are cited for failure to comply with the new law could be banned from performing abortions.
"This ultrasound law is the most restrictive one in the country,” said Stephanie Toti, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. "All providers will be forced to use the ultrasounds. A woman won’t be able to seek a provider that doesn’t use an ultrasound as standard practice.”
In another vote of 36-12, the Senate also did away with Henry’s veto of HB 2656, which makes it illegal to sue a health care provider because an "omission contributed to the mother not having obtained an abortion.” The House voted Monday to override the Democrat governor’s veto on the bills.
Opponents of the bills argued the measures are another way to make it more difficult for women to seek an abortion. Proponents said a woman seeking an abortion should have accurate information about the development of her unborn child.
Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said the ultrasound measure is meant to protect the unborn and the mother’s mental health.
"Many women suffer severe emotional trauma as a result of having had an abortion,” Lauinger said. "With this, women will have the full benefit of having all the information. We believe the effort not only saves the lives of unborn children, but it spares women from emotional or psychological distress that follows an abortion.