Showdown at the OK Capitol: Senate Overrides Gov’s Veto of Abortion Law

Oklahoma lawmakers have won yet another face-off with pro-abortion Democratic Gov. Brad Henry, after the state Senate overrode the governor’s veto of an enhanced abortion statistics reporting law on Tuesday.

The stakes were riding high for pro-life advocates. The Oklahoma House of Representatives on late Monday afternoon overwhelmingly overruled Henry’s third veto this year of Oklahoma pro-life legislation, by an 84–13 margin. But while the House had votes to spare to reach its two-thirds veto-proof majority, the Senate could not afford to lose one of the thirty-two members that voted for the bill in the first round, in their override attempt.

When (LSN) spoke with Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life, who was busy counting votes on Capitol Hill Monday morning, he mentioned that Planned Parenthood and abortion industry lobbyists were out in force, putting heavy pressure to get just one legislator to cave and switch his vote from “yes” to “no” on the veto override.

However the Senate joined the House and voted 33 – 15 to override the pro-abortion veto, actually gaining pro-life advocates one more vote.

The new law requires that abortionists fill out 37 questions reporting information on abortion procedures and medical safety protocols, and ask their clients for the reasons they are seeking abortion. The state health department would be tasked with deriving abortion statistics from the data, which could be publicly accessed through the Internet.

Lauinger told LSN that state pro-life advocates were pleased with the passage of the law, saying it would help “identify the underlying reasons why women resort to abortion.”

“Hopefully these underlying problems can be resolved and addressed in ways that do not involve the taking of an innocent human life.”

He also lauded the fact that the measure puts to the test the claim that abortion is “safe, legal, and rare” by mandating that the public have accurate data on abortion-related complications.

The law will go into effect on November 1. It is now the seventh pro-life law entered successfully into law by Oklahoma this year. An eighth measure restricting insurance companies from subsidizing elective abortions has been passed by both chambers, but the governor is likely to veto that legislation as well.

Lauinger made a point of mentioning that Oklahoma pro-lifers owed a great deal of credit to the National Right to Life Committee for this year’s legislative successes, saying that he has been in continuous contact with NRLC’s director for state-based legislation, Mary Spaulding Balch, to achieve these victories.

He said that the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has made rumblings about a legal challenge to the law, but added that he believes the law will stand up to constitutional scrutiny, especially with regards to privacy.

The measure originally was approved with a 32-11 margin in the Senate, and a massive 88-8 margin in the House.

Gov. Henry had vetoed HB 3284, The Statistical Abortion Report Act, on Saturday saying the measure would be “forcing” women seeking abortion to submit to a “personally invasive questionnaire and posting the answers on a state website.” He contended it would further traumatize victims of rape and incest.

Many news outlets uncritically repeated the governor’s claims that the bill would women to fill out a questionnaire. However, the law actually places the burden of responsibility on abortionists to ask the list of questions, which women are free to decline to answer.

The abortion reporting provisions had been passed previously in an abortion-related omnibus bill that was later struck down by the state Supreme Court for violating the single-issue rule. That bill was then split up into a series of bills, all of which have now passed the legislature.

The two other pro-life bills vetoed by Gov Henry this year included a measure that expanded the state’s informed consent law by requiring abortionists to perform an ultrasound on a mother seeking an abortion, and to show her the screen and give a description of her unborn child at its stage of development. The other bill prohibited “wrongful birth” lawsuits, preventing doctors from facing civil liability for failing to provide information that would have led a woman to seek an abortion.

For more information on the Oklahoma Legislature visit here.

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