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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

Kevin Calvey, state vice chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said during a news conference Tuesday that it was extremely disconcerting for his group and others opposed to abortion who had campaigned for Republican House members to see House Republicans taking secret votes to kill SB 1433.

Hours later, a letter signed by Calvey and Lauinger was distributed to House Republicans that stated the failure of a member to advance SB 1433 in procedural moves would be regarded “as pro-abortion rights votes on that member's record.”

House Speaker Designate T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, was so upset he fired off an email to Calvey. Shannon didn't want to talk about his email, but a copy provided to The Oklahoman showed he wrote that Calvey “not only disrespected this institution, but you have also demonstrated an utter lack of professionalism and integrity. Your credibility has been damaged to the point that I respectfully request that you do not lobby my office, and you remove me from your correspondence list.”

Calvey, a former Republican House member, sent an email Wednesday to House members stating that the group's position had changed, saying that “Oklahomans for Life will not be scoring procedural votes on SB 1433.”

Calvey declined to comment Thursday night on his earlier comments or on Shannon's email. He referred all questions to Lauinger, who did not return a telephone call.

House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said Oklahomans for Life went too far in their efforts to persuade House Republicans, who have a 66-32 majority, to take up SB 1433.

“The tactic that was taken originally with the threat or at least the decision to base procedural votes as policy goes was too far,” Steele said. “Procedural votes are intended to maintain order and to protect our organizational structure. They're much different than actual policy votes, and I think they should be treated as such.”

Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said Thursday that she was glad the House failed to act on SB 1433. Dozens of members of the group, wearing pink T-shirts, sat through the House sessions Tuesday through Thursday to see if House members would take up the measure.

“People were outraged about this bill and worried about this bill because of the potential consequences,” she said.


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