Abortion bills pass Senate panel
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Friday, March 26, 2010
3/26/10 at 4:54 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY — A state Senate panel passed four abortion-related bills Thursday, including controversial provisions requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound and to provide extensive information.
The bills, which now head to the full Senate for consideration, are being pushed independently after two separate Oklahoma County judges declared earlier abortion laws containing the provisions unconstitutional because they contained more than one subject.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed House Bill 2780 by Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, which would require a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure and to have its contents explained to her.
Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, said there has been quite a bit of rhetoric about how a recently signed federal health care reform package was unconstitutional because it includes mandates. He questioned how Republicans could square those statements with a mandate requiring women to get an ultrasound prior to an abortion.
Adelson said such positions seem to be inconsistent.
Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said HB 2780 is designed to ensure that a woman has as much information as possible.
Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said the measure was another step toward eliminating a woman's right to choose.
"And I have a problem with that," Johnson said.
She said the state goes to great efforts to put restrictions on abortion but does little to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
The panel also passed House Bill 3284 by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, which would require women seeking an abortion to provide a host of information to doctors to be placed on a state-run Web site. The woman would not be identified.
The information includes race, education level, miscarriages, induced abortions, method of abortion, reason for the abortion and method of payment.
The two other measures deal with lawsuits and the posting of signs in abortion clinics.
Autopsy information: The committee also passed House Bill 3155 by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle, and Sen. Ron Justice, R-Chickasha, which would close some information in autopsy reports when the manner of death is homicide, unknown or pending. Supporters say the measure is necessary so that law enforcement agencies can perform unfettered investigations.
"The press certainly doesn't want to be used as an excuse when homicides are unsolved," said Mark Thomas, Oklahoma Press Association executive vice president. "But there has to be a way for citizens to know details about a death when investigations stall."
The bill doesn't contain a provision allowing for a family to obtain the autopsy report, Thomas said.
"There needs to be some transparency when a person dies in police custody, or when a judge thinks the public interest outweighs the need to keep the reports confidential, and some other very real circumstances," Thomas said.
The Medical Examiner's Office must remain independent, he said.
"The ME's office has a responsibility to the citizens first, and should not be subject to the secrecy desires of criminal investigators," Thomas said.
Barbara Hoberock (405) 528-2465