The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.
If the law wins approval in the Senate and is signed into law — both of which appear likely — Oklahoma would be the second state to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain.
Abortions now are allowed up to 24 weeks. After that, they can be provided only because of serious health issues.
House Bill 1888 passed by a vote of 94-2 without questions or debate.
HB 1888 also would require abortion providers to determine fetal age before an abortion, said Pan Peterson, R-Tulsa, the bill's author. The bill exempts situations in which the life of the mother is at risk or when the mother faces “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.”
“People on both sides of the abortion debate should agree that gratuitous suffering of an unborn child is really incompatible with a decent and humane society,” she said in an interview. “That's what this bill does; it shows the humaneness of that unborn child.”
Peterson said she was surprised no members asked questions about the bill, which last month passed a House of Representatives committee 11-2.
What opponents said
Reps. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, voted against the measure. Five Democrats were absent during the vote.
Virgin said later that legal challenges likely will be filed if the measure becomes law because it goes against the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
The decision states that a woman, with her doctor, could choose abortion as late as 24 weeks.
“It's unconstitutional,” said Virgin, a second-year law student and freshman legislator. “It violates Roe v. Wade. I support a woman's right to choose. I am very much in favor of other avenues of preventing abortion. I don't think this is an effective way to prevent abortions if that is the goal here. Comprehensive sex education is the way to go in public schools. Students need to know all the options. ... I don't think that restricting a woman's right to choose is the way to do it.”
Similar to Nebraska law
Peterson said her bill is patterned after a Nebraska measure that took effect last year. No lawsuits have been filed against that law, she said.
“This is a bill that has caught up with scientific evidence,” Peterson said. “Thirty-
If it passes, it would take effect Nov. 1.
Just before the vote,
“Maybe that was helpful,” she said.