The Oklahoma Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed five new abortion restriction bills Monday. Several bills will be sent to Governor Brad Henry (R) for approval, while others will be sent back to the Oklahoma House of Representatives for further debate, reported the Associated Press.
An existing state law requires women to view an ultrasound prior to an abortion. According to the Associated Press, one of the new measures, HB 2780, would require medical professionals to also give a detailed description of the fetus, and to use a vaginal probe to obtain a clearer image. The Senate voted 35 to11 in favor of the bill. Oklahoma Senator Andrew Rice (D), who voted against the bill, told the Associated Press, "You're going to force someone to undergo an invasive medical procedure. You have to invasively put an instrument inside the woman. This could be your 15-year-old daughter who was raped." This bill is one of three sent to the state House for a vote there.
A second bill, HB 3284, would require women seeking an abortion to complete a detailed 38-question form that includes questions on their race, education level, previous miscarriages, and induced abortions. Although individual women would remain anonymous, their responses will be posted on a state-run web site, reported Tulsa World. Another measure prevents the use of so-called "wrongful life" lawsuits, which use the argument that a fetus should have been aborted, reported ABC News Channel 8. These two bills were also sent to the state House for a vote.
A fourth bill would prohibit any state health insurance provider from covering abortions and the last bill would require abortion clinics to post certain signs in their facilities. These final two bills have also passed in the state House and are being sent to Governor Henry for his signature, reported the Associated Press.
Jennifer Mondino, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which helped prevent the enactment of anti-choice legislation in Oklahoma in 2008 and 2009, told the Associated Press the latest Senate bills were the most extreme abortion restrictions seen so far. "We're very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to pass these bills and open themselves up to possible legal challenges in the future. We've been monitoring the bills, and it's definitely a significant possibility we'll be challenging some or even all the bills."
Governor Brad Henry signed three anti-choice bills into law on April 5. The first of these bills outlaws sex-selective abortion, the second bill institutes a "conscience clause" allowing healthcare providers to refuse to participate in abortion procedures or refer patients to abortion providers, and the third bill puts restrictions on the administration of mifepristone (also known as RU-486) by requiring it be administered in the presence of a physician. Each of laws signed by Henry were previously part of a single bill approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. Early in March, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the February ruling of a state District Court, saying the law was unconstitutional on the basis that it violates the single-subject state rule.
Media Resources: Associated Press 4/20/10; Tulsa World 3/26/10; ABC News Channel 8 4/19/10; Feminist Daily News 3/31/10; 4/6/10