Senate Overrides Governor's Abortion Bill Vetoes
Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Senate has voted to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of two abortion bills, clearing the way for the bills to become law without his signature.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 36-12 Tuesday to override the veto of a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.
The Senate also voted 36-12 to override a veto of legislation that prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy.
Both override votes received just enough support. Henry had said the vetoes were needed because the measures lacked exemptions for rape and incest victims.
Governor Brad Henry released the following statement on the overrides of the abortion vetoes:
"Obviously, I am disappointed by the action because it signals the beginning of another costly and possibly futile legal battle for the state of Oklahoma. Both laws will be challenged and, in all likelihood, overturned by the courts as unconstitutional. I fear this entire exercise will ultimately be a waste of taxpayers' time and money."
After two years of legal challenges and criticism from pro-choice activists, state lawmakers successfully passed their abortion measure and garnered enough support to withstand Governor Henry's override.
"Everyone Republican in the state Senate voted for it, but more importantly than that, there was Democrat support as well," State Sen. Todd Lamb (R) said.
But a spokesperson for Governor Henry has strong words against the measures he said crossed the line.
"Governor Henry supports reasonable restrictions on abortion, but these bills went too far, they're unconstitutional and the court is going to throw them out," spokesperson for Gov. Henry, Paul Sund said.
Sund says Gov. Henry takes issue with the mandated ultrasound every woman seeking an abortion must undergo. The doctor conducting the ultrasound must then show her the images. There is no exemption for victims of rape and incest.
"Victims of these horrific acts should not be forced to undergo a medical procedure against their will," said Sund. "It's unconscionable and it's unconstitutional."
But Senator Lamb says that is consistent with the language from a previous bill that was declared unconstitutional, even though it has bipartisan support from the legislature.
"There was not that exemption at that time and there's not that exception at this time," said Sen. Lamb. "I'm going to let the legislation stand on its own."
One pro-choice group says that re-victimizes women all over again.
"For a woman who has been raped to have to undergo that and for a woman who has been the victim of incest to undergo that and no provision has been made for that, it's even worse," Dr. Dana Stone with Planned Parenthood said.
Senator Lamb says this is what the public wants.
"We have to do what we think is in the best interest of our constituents," Sen. Lamb said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging this bill, specifically the Ultrasound requirement. That's that same group that successfully fought this law earlier this year.
Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee released a statement concerning the Senate veto override.
"This is a good day for the cause of life. Today a bipartisan Senate majority made a bold statement in support of the sanctity of life. Those who rallied behind this cause reflected the core values of Oklahoma citizens, and I applaud my colleagues in providing more safeguards for the life of the unborn.
"I would remind the Governor and those who would seek to overturn this action that the Governor has already signed four pro-life bills (SB 1890, SB 1891, SB 1902 & HB 3075) into law this session that had been previously overturned by the courts on a technicality, not merit.
"That same technicality applies to the two vetoes that were overturned today. The argument that these bills will be challenged in the courts is speculative.
"The voice of the people has spoken twice now this session in the Senate and twice in the House, and I sincerely hope those who would reverse the people's voice would think twice before acting."
Henry had vetoed similar legislation in 2008, and was also overridden by lawmakers. But an Oklahoma County judge struck down the bill before it took effect on the grounds that it contained multiple subjects, in violation of the state constitution's requirement that bills deal with a single subject.
Henry has signed other measures on abortion including a law requiring clinics to post signs stating that a woman cannot be forced to have an abortion, saying an abortion will not be performed until the woman gives her voluntary consent and making abortions based on child's gender illegal.