Henry vetoes pro-life bill; override follows
Supporters of an omnibus pro-life bill moved quickly in the Oklahoma State Senate and House of Representatives April 17 to override an April 16 veto of the measure by Gov. Brad Henry. The Senate voted 37-11 to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1878, which had passed the Senate April 9 by a vote of 38-10. The House then followed suit, overwhelmingly approving the override by a vote of 81-15.
The bill laid on the governor’s desk for a week waiting for Henry to take action on it.
The measure, sponsored by Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, and Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, contains several pro-life initiatives. The bill passed the Oklahoma House April 2 by a vote of 80-12.
“While I support reasonable restrictions on abortion, this legislation does not provide an essential exemption for victims of rape and incest,” Henry said, explaining his action. “By forcing the victims of such horrific acts to undergo and view ultrasounds after they have made such a difficult and heartbreaking decision, the state victimizes the victim for a second time. It would be unconscionable to subject victims of rape and incest to such treatment. Because of this critical flaw, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation.”
By combining various pieces of legislation from Lamb and members of the House of Representatives, Senate Bill 1878:
_ Creates the Freedom of Conscience Act which protects the rights of healthcare providers to refuse to take part in the destruction of human life (SB 1878-Sen. Lamb, Rep. Peterson);
_ Regulates the use of the dangerous chemical pill RU-486, used when the unborn child is about two months old (HB 2181-Rep. Skye McNiel);
_ Ensures the mother’s consent to abort is truly voluntary, and protects against coerced abortions (HB 3059-Sen. Jim Williamson, Rep. Rebecca Hamilton);
_ Provides a woman with an ultrasound of her unborn child which she can view prior to undergoing the abortion (HB 3144-Sen. Lamb, Rep. Lisa Billy);
_ Cultivates respect for disabled children by banning the wrongful-life lawsuits that claim a baby would have been better off aborted (HB 2814-Sen. Brian Crain, Rep. Dan Sullivan).
Speaking by telephone with Ray E. Sanders, executive editor of the Baptist Messenger, minutes following the vote to override the governor’s veto, Lamb expressed his thanks to pro-life supporters who had contacted him and many other legislators expressing their support of SB 1878.
“Praise God. I want to thank the Baptist Messenger for getting the word out on this pro-life legislation,” he said. “I have received many encouraging e-mails and telephone calls in support of this legislation. The will of the people was heard today. By vetoing this pro-life legislation, the governor acted in opposition of the people. The override made it evident that we have a representative democracy. The will of the people prevailed.”
In another exclusive statement to the Messenger, Peterson spoke with Sanders from the House chamber.
“This bill is a victory for women, unborn children and individuals with disabilities,” she exclaimed. “I am encouraged that this Legislator did the right thing by standing for life today.”
Henry last year also vetoed an anti-abortion measure that would have banned state funds or employees from being used to perform abortions. The Senate failed to override his veto in that instance. A similar anti-abortion bill, which included an exclusion if the life of the mother was at risk or if the pregnancy involved incest or rape, was approved last year and became law without the governor’s signature.
SB 1878 had passed both houses of the Legislature by veto-proof margins. A two thirds vote of each house is needed to override the veto of a bill. Two thirds is 32 in the evenly divided Senate, and 68 in the House.
“The provisions spelled out in this legislation are critical pro-life advances,” Lamb said after the Senate approved the measure April 9. “Working with pro-life members of the House and Senate to protect the sanctity of life and develop this comprehensive bill has been an honor. I am encouraged by the bipartisan support to protect innocent life today in the Senate.”
The legislation is about empowering women to make an educated decision, sponsoring legislators said.
“The more information a woman can have before making this life-altering decision, the better,” said Peterson. “It is also important to protect doctors from having to perform an abortion if they are morally opposed to the procedure.”
Sullivan, R-Tulsa, the original author of the wrongful-life lawsuit portion of the bill, said the legislation fosters respect for babies with disabilities.
“Just being born does not constitute grounds for a lawsuit,” he said. “This bill recognizes that life is precious and valued by our state.”
The Legislature must continue to find ways for women to get all the facts surrounding an abortion procedure, said Billy, R-Purcell, the original author of the ultrasound requirement in the bill.
“Protecting the lives of innocent children is our most important job as legislators,” Billy said.
Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, who originally authored the portion of the bill requiring signage in abortion clinics, said this important legislation makes women aware of their rights.
“Often in these situations you are dealing with someone young and under a lot of pressure,” she said. “These women need to be reminded they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to.”