Okla. House overrides abortion restrictions vetoes

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma House voted overwhelmingly Monday to override Gov. Brad Henry's vetoes of two abortion measures he called unconstitutional intrusions into citizens' private lives and decisions.

The Senate is expected to follow suit as early as Tuesday, after which the bills would become law.

Without discussion or debate, House members voted 81-14 to override the veto of a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

They voted 84-12 to override a veto of legislation that prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy. Supporters had said that legislation was aimed at preventing women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities.

Henry, who vetoed the measures Friday, has called the ultrasound legislation flawed because it does not allow exemptions for victims of rape and incest. The Center for Reproductive Rights, a national abortion rights group, calls it among the strictest anti-abortion measures in the nation.

Override votes also must pass Senate for the bills to become law. At least 36 votes, or three-quarters of the 48-member Senate, are needed to override.

"We must move to stop the degradation of human life seen in recent years and stand up for those who cannot defend themselves," House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, said after his chamber's votes. At least 76 votes, or three-quarters of the 101-member House, were needed to override.

The ultrasound bill was intended to provide pregnant women with information she needs to make an informed choice about terminating her pregnancy, said Tony Lauinger, state chairman of the anti- abortion group Oklahomans for Life and vice president of the National Right to Life Committee.

The bill's author said women deserve all available information before deciding whether to have an abortion.

"I don't want a single woman to go through the lifelong torture of having an abortion without having all the relevant information," said Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell.

Legislative attempts to restrict abortion across the country aren't unusual and Oklahoma has passed other measures this year.

This month alone, Henry has signed a law requiring clinics to post signs stating a woman cannot be forced to have an abortion, that an abortion will not be performed until the woman gives her v oluntary consent and that abortions based on child's gender are illegal.

Nebraska also put new restrictions on abortion this month, enacting a law that bars the procedure at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the assertion that fetuses can feel pain at that po int. The other requires women be screened before having abortions for mental health issues and other risk factors indicating if they might have problems afterward.