Governor Brad Henry Vetoes Abortion Questionnaire Bill
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Saturday, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed House Bill 3284 that would require women to answer a detailed questionnaire before having an abortion, and to have their answers posted to a state web site.
Henry said the abortion legislation had previously been declared unconstitutional by the courts, had numerous flaws and would ultimately result in another expensive and possibly futile legal battle for the state.
In his veto message, Gov. Henry reiterated his support for reasonable restrictions on abortion, but said HB 3284 had several flaws, including the lack of an exemption for rape and incest victims.
"By forcing rape and incest victims to submit to a personally invasive questionnaire and posting the answers on a state web site, this legislation will only increase the trauma of an already traumatic event," Henry said. "Victims of such horrific acts should be treated with dignity and respect in such situations, as should all people."
The bill's author, Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, said she was disappointed but didn't know whether there would be an attempt to override the veto.
"I'm going to consult with our leadership, I don't think that's been determined yet," Peterson said Saturday. "It's up to my House leadership to decide whether to make that effort with just five days left in the session."
House Speaker Chris Benge didn't immediately return a phone call for comment.
The Statistical Abortion Report Act also would have required doctors to report the methods used in abortions and any complications that developed. The bill called for the Health Department to compile the information into a report posted on its website.
Peterson said there has been "misreporting" that a woman's personal information would be gathered. Women wouldn't have to answer the question, and if they did, the information would be used only for statistical purposes to learn why they were seeking an abortion, she said.
"If we really want to make abortions safe, legal and rare, we need this statistical reporting," Peterson said.
The courts struck down a state law containing a similar provision last year, and opponents of the statute have indicated another legal challenge may be forthcoming if HB 3284 becomes law. Although the court struck down the earlier law because it contained multiple subjects, the governor said the latest version of the proposal was also unconstitutional.
"Requiring patients to publicly reveal highly intimate and personal details of their lives to obtain a medical procedure protected by this nation's highest court constitutes an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and barrier to legal medical treatment," he said.
This is the third abortion bill Henry has vetoed this session. The two other vetoes were overridden by the Republican-controlled Legislature. One of those bills requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.
The other bars pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancies. Supporters have said it is meant to keep pregnant women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities.
Henry has signed other measures on abortion including a law requiring clinics to post signs stating that a woman can't 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this story