Oklahoma House OKs additional restrictions on abortion
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Thursday, April 14, 2011
4/14/11 at 8:29 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Legislature continued its attack on abortion rights Wednesday by passing and sending to Gov. Mary Fallin two bills intended to further limit access to the procedure.
House Bill 1888, which prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks, and Senate Bill 547, which bans elective abortion coverage from insurance plans offered through a state health insurance exchange, passed the House with little discussion or opposition.
HB 1888, titled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, states that a 20-week-old fetus is capable of feeling pain, a claim disputed by the measure's opponents. It is expected to have its greatest impact on pregnancies involving adverse medical conditions or abnormal fetuses.
Most abortions in Oklahoma are performed well before 20 weeks, according to authorities. The exceptions are generally those done because of the mother's health or fetal abnormalities.
HB 1888 allows exceptions for emergencies or in cases in which the mother "has a condition which so complicates her medical condition as to necessitate the abortion ... to avert her death or to avert serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function."
State Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, a critic of the bill, said it will actually increase abortion rates because women with troubled pregnancies will be pressured into making early decisions about termination.
The measure is likely to be tested in court. Earlier this month, Jordan Goldberg of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization that has successfully challenged Oklahoma abortion laws in the past, said the bill appears to be unconstitutional.
SB 547 bars elective abortion coverage from health plans offered through health care exchanges set up as a result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and also prohibits such coverage from being included in any standard health insurance policy.
Under the bill, such coverage would have to be bought as a separate policy whose premium "fully covers the estimated cost" of the procedure.
The bill defines "elective abortion" as one for "any reason other than to prevent the death of the mother." It does not allow exceptions for other medical conditions, or in cases of rape or incest.
The bill's author, Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said it "prevents Oklahomans from having to violate their moral beliefs if they purchase health insurance.
"Oklahomans who believe in the sanctity of life should not be forced to indirectly subsidize the abortion industry."
SB 547 passed the House 84-10. HB 1888 passed 85-7.
Original Print Headline: House OKs additional restrictions on abortion
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Gov. Mary Fallin