OKLAHOMA CITY — An abortion bill opponents say will require doctors to lie to their patients but that supporters believe will save lives cleared the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday and is headed to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk.
Senate Bill 614, by Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, requires abortion providers to inform women who have begun drug-induced pregnancy termination of an “antidote” that supporters say can reverse the abortion drug.
Opponents, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists, say there is no scientific proof the reversal protocol works. One doctor has said it is “tantamount to quackery.”
The ardently anti-abortion rights majority of the Oklahoma House seemed to agree with Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, who said preventing even one successful abortion made the law worthwhile.
Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, said it was “unbelievable” that “people would argue the humaneness and the right of a woman to kill her baby ... who would argue the right of a woman to kill her child and call it humane? It blows my mind we would have to have this discussion. It makes me sick. It truly does.”
Humphrey said if the bill had any fault, it was that it didn’t go far enough.
“Stand up. Do the right thing,” he said. “Let’s get together to abolish abortion in Oklahoma.”
Three women and two men debated against SB 614. For the most part, they argued it is not grounded in science and is rooted more in opinion than fact.
“When we make laws based on opinions, we run into trouble,” said Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City.
“Our job is to make good law. ... Whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, this is a bad bill,” said Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa.
Those opposed to SB 614 said it forces doctors, under threat of felony, to mislead women about a protocol of unknown efficacy that has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As it happens, a similar argument was once used against medical abortion by some of those supporting legislation such as SB 614.
Until the FDA changed its instructions for mifreprestone in 2016, critics of medical abortions attacked the procedure’s use of that drug as “off label” — that is, for a purpose not approved by the FDA.
The reversal protocol promoted by SB 614 also requires using a drug — in this case progesterone — off label.
Medical professionals say off-label use of drugs is not uncommon.
Medical abortions, which are the safest and most common procedure for terminations in the first trimester, involve taking two drugs — mifreprestone and misoprostol — 24 hours apart. The first drug blocks progesterone, thus ending most pregnancies. Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, completing what is more or less an induced miscarriage.
The reversal protocol calls for flooding the uterus with progesterone to counter the effects of the mifreprestone. Some doctors say it works up to 50 percent of the time, but there are no controlled studies on the subject, and most of the data is anecdotal.
A bill similar to SB 614 cost Arizona $600,000 in legal fees to the prevailing parties and wound up being repealed to avoid further penalties, but other states have enacted the law successfully.
The measure passed 74-24, largely along party lines, although one Democrat voted for SB 614 and one Republican voted against it.
Also Tuesday in the House:
A measure that would preempt local governments from banning or imposing special taxes on “auxiliary containers” such as plastic bags and cups won narrow approval.
SB 1001, by Sen. James Leewright, R-Sapulpa, managed only the bare minimum 51 votes needed for passage as 18 Republicans joined 23 Democrats in opposition.
Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, the House sponsor, said it is necessary to have a statewide law on what amounts to plastic trash. Opponents said the legislation pokes its nose into local jurisdictions and mostly benefits fast food outlets.
Motorists should be on the lookout for SB 89, which passed the House comfortably. It would require traffic to move over for all vehicles parked on the shoulder with emergency flashers blinking. SB 89 must go back to the Senate for final approval.