Oklahoma governor vetoes bill to criminalize abortions

The Oklahoma bill would have made any abortion except those to protect the mother's life a felony, and would have been the first to impose prison sentences for performing abortions.


WASHINGTON, May 21, 2016 — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed a bill that would have criminalized most abortion procedures. The state senate passed the bill on Thursday. Had Fallin signed the bill, anyone found to have performed an abortion—except to save the life of the mother—would have been guilty of a felony and could have received up to three years in prison.

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The bill passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a vote of 59 to 9 last month. On Thursday, the senate passed it 33 to 12. Had Fallin signed it, it would have opened up Oklahoma to lawsuits from abortion rights supporters.

Fallin has been mentioned as a possible running mate for probable GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Since taking office in 2011, she has signed more than a dozen bills restricting access to reproductive health care, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The vetoed legislation would have been the most extreme abortion law in the country since Roe v. Wade.

The bill was the first of its kind to include legal sanctions against abortion providers. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal over an overturned Oklahoma law that would have required a woman to view an ultrasound of her fetus before an abortion was performed. That same year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a law that would have effectively banned all drug-induced abortions in the state.

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Oklahoma’s legislation is one of many anti-abortion bills passed by Republican-led state legislatures in recent years. According to the Center for Reproductive Freedom, which supports abortion rights, state lawmakers passed 47 new laws restricting abortion and proposed 400 more in 2015. Fallin’s veto comes as the Supreme Court gets closer to making a decision on Texas’ restrictions on abortion clinics.

Supporters have said the bill could withstand a legal challenge because the state was within its rights to set licensing requirements for doctors. Legal experts have said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is legal in the United States and Oklahoma must abide by the court’s decision.

Had the bill been signed, the state would have been involved in an expensive legal battle which could have cost it millions. Oklahoma is currently facing a $1.3 billion budget crisis, forcing the state to cut education funding and other state programs.

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