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.”
Another overrideIn 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.” Henry said he was disappointed by the Legislature’s veto override. "It signals the beginning of another costly and possibly futile legal battle for the state of Oklahoma,” Henry said. "Both laws will be challenged and, in all likelihood, overturned by the courts as unconstitutional. I fear this entire exercise will ultimately be a waste of taxpayers’ time and money.” Senators debated the measure for nearly an hour before the vote. Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa, urged lawmakers to consider the rights of women. "We know this is wrong. Think about what we’re doing if we do not sustain this veto. Remember it’s our body, not theirs,” Eason McIntyre said. "It’s nobody else’s decision. If it’s the wrong decision, you live with it.” Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, pointed out that agencies and programs meant to help young mothers and families are taking budget cuts. Rice reminded lawmakers of cuts in this year’s budget that did away with prenatal care at an Oklahoma City school for teen mothers. "When the budget comes down the road, let’s ask ourselves if we’re being pro-life with the budget,” said Rice. "These girls did what we wanted them to do. They had their babies. Are we going to find the money to enable them to take care of unborn babies and babies when they’re born?” Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, said policymakers needed to be a voice for the unborn. "No one is more vulnerable than the child in the womb,” Russell said. "They have no voice, except ours.” Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, who made the motion in the Senate to override Henry’s veto, closed debate, pointing out that the House author of the bill is a woman, Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay. Sykes said ultrasounds, like most medical procedures, are invasive, and the ultrasound requirement is not onerous. "This (ultrasound) is done a high percentage of the time prior, to determine the size and weight,” Sykes said. "And it’s done again after the murder of that child to make sure they didn’t leave any of it in the womb.”
House Bill 2780
• Requires women seeking an abortion to be shown an ultrasound at least an hour before undergoing the procedure.
• The health care provider must describe fetal development, including the heart beat and development of organs or limbs. The woman can avert her eyes, but health care providers are required to give an explanation.
• Women seeking an abortion because of a medical emergency are not required to view an ultrasound image. A written certificate detailing the medical emergency will stay in a patient’s file for up to seven years.
• A doctor who does not comply with the ultrasound requirement can be sued by the woman seeking an abortion; the patient’s spouse, parent, sibling or guardian; or another health care provider.
• The district attorney or attorney general also can bring legal action to stop the provider from doing abortions.
• A physician who violates the injunction could be fined up to $100,000.
House Bill 2656
• Protects a health care provider from a lawsuit if their omission of information about the health or condition of an unborn child "contributed to the mother not having obtained an abortion.” JULIE BISBEE, CAPITOL BUREAU