Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Friday that would've criminalized abortion in Oklahoma. The measure would've effectively banned the procedure in the state by making it a felony. It also would've punished doctors who performed an abortion by revoking their medical license and with possible jail time.
Updated May 20, 3:54 p.m.
“While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination,” Fallin wrote in her veto message. “In fact, the most direct path to a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade is the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the United States Supreme Court.”
The legislation would've made an exception in order to protect the life of the mother, but Fallin's veto message called that language ambiguous and vague, and said doctors couldn't be certain what medical circumstances would be considered necessary to do that.
State Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, who's the only physician in the chamber, called the bill "insane" when it passed Thursday. He voted against it, even though he described himself as a Catholic, pro-life Republican.
The bill faced an almost certain constitutional challenge. In fact, the bill's author, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, said he expected one and hoped it would serve as a vehicle to overturn the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade. University of Oklahoma law professor Joseph Thai called the bill "patently unconsitutional" during a Friday morning interview with WBUR's Here & Now, conducted before Fallin issued her veto.
"If any of our state lawmakers believe otherwise, then they should look in investing in oceanfront property in Oklahoma," Thai said. He also believes there aren't enough justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who would overturn the decision.
Thai said lawmakers passed the bill in order to appeal to Oklahoma's conservative base, but the medical community was concerned about the effect it would have recruiting and retaining doctors.
The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill that would make abortion a felony in Oklahoma and revoke the license of a physician who performs the procedure. It now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk for her signature.
A spokesman for Fallin told the Associated Press the governor would withhold comment until her staff has time to review it.
Gov. Fallin will not be signing any bills today, per her office
— Shawn Ashley (@eCapitol_Shawn) May 19, 2016
The Senate voted 33-12, mostly along party lines, for state Sen. Nathan Dahm’s legislation without debating the measure. The Broken Arrow Republican says he expects a court challenge, but hopes the measure could lead to overturning the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
The bill does specify that abortions can be performed if it would save the life of the mother. Physician and state Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, called the bill “insane,” The Oklahoman’s Rick Green reports:
He predicted it would be invalidated in litigation if it is signed into law.
"It will be declared null and void," he said.
The Center for Reproductive Rights calls the legislation “the first of its kind” in the nation. In a letter to Fallin, the group urged her to veto the legislation.
“This measure is harmful, discriminatory, clearly unconstitutional, and insulting to Oklahoma women and their families,” the letter states:
The Court has repeatedly held that the Constitution prohibits a state from enacting a law that bans abortion prior the point in pregnancy when a fetus is viable. As the Supreme Court has emphasized, “viability marks the earliest point at which the State’s interest in fetal life is constitutionally adequate to justify a legislative ban on nontherapeutic abortions.” The Supreme Court has never wavered from this position, despite numerous opportunities to do so.7 By completely banning abortions, Senate Bill 1552 wholly conflicts with all U.S. Supreme Court precedent on abortion while ignoring the integral part that abortion plays in helping to achieve equality for women.
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