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Oklahoma House fails to act on personhood bill

A House member shouts unsuccessfully to get the measure brought up for a hearing in the closing minutes of Thursday's session. Meanwhile, the leader of an anti-abortion group apologizes to House Republicans for tactics used in trying to get the measure heard before Thursday's deadline.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: April 27, 2012

The so-called personhood bill failed to get a necessary hearing Thursday before the House of Representatives adjourned for the week, but its demise was anything but quiet.

The head of an anti-abortion group apologized Thursday to Republican House members for using poor judgment in threatening to keep track of those who voted against parliamentary procedures to bring Senate Bill 1433 up for a hearing. Oklahomans for Life said it would report any House member who blocks the effort as being for abortion rights.

The group's tactic upset many House Republicans, most of whom had approved more than 30 anti-abortion measures since the GOP gained control of the House after 2004.

Thursday's session ended in near mayhem as Rep. Mike Reynolds shouted for a couple of minutes in a last-gasp effort to get the measure brought up for a hearing. Thursday was the last day Senate-originated measures could be heard on the House floor.

Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Hickman, who was presiding in the chamber, called on House sergeants to be prepared to escort Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, out of the chamber. Order was restored before the sergeants made any move toward Reynolds, who had tried for the second straight day to suspend the rules in an attempt to bring SB 1433 up for a House vote. Hickman, R-Fairview, ruled both days that motions have to go through the majority floor.

Reynolds said Thursday night he was disappointed House leaders don't abide by House rules.

“There are a number of us that next week intend on calling for the removal of some of those people from their positions of authority,” Reynolds said.

Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life, sent a letter Thursday to House Republicans offering a sincere apology for the group's recent efforts to get SB 1433 heard on the floor. Backers of SB 1433 say it is a statement that Oklahomans value life and that nothing in the measure would prohibit contraception or in vitro fertilization. Opponents say it could lead to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

Lauinger, who has worked on anti-abortion measures for 35 years at the state Capitol, wrote that his group had been disappointed when House Republicans in private polling decided last week against hearing SB 1433.

“We had looked forward to SB 1433's consideration on the House floor last week, and the change in plans was a bitter disappointment. Overheated rhetoric and errors in judgment were the results. I am very sorry,” he wrote.

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