US governor vetoes 2 abortion bills
Oklahoma Gov Brad Henry vetoed two abortion bills that he said are an unconstitutional attempt by the Legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of citizens.world Updated: Apr 24, 2010 12:15 IST
Oklahoma Gov Brad Henry vetoed two abortion bills that he said are an unconstitutional attempt by the Legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of citizens.
One measure would have required women to undergo an intrusive ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting abortions.
Henry said on Friday that legislation is flawed because it does not allow rape and incest victims to be exempted. Lawmakers who supported the vetoed measures promised an override vote in the House and Senate as early as next week.
A national abortion rights group has said the ultrasound bill would have been among the strictest anti-abortion measures in the United States if it had been signed into law.
Henry said "it would be unconscionable to subject rape and incest victims to such treatment" because it would victimize a victim a second time.
"State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma. To do so amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy," he said.
Under the ultrasound legislation, doctors would have been required to use a vaginal probe in cases where it would provide a clearer picture of the fetus than a regular ultrasound. Doctors have said this is usually the case early in pregnancies, when most abortions are done.
Henry vetoed similar legislation in 2008 but was overridden by lawmakers. The bill was struck down by an Oklahoma County judge before it went into effect on the grounds that it contained multiple subjects in violation of the state Constitution.
The second abortion bill that the governor vetoed Friday was one that would have prohibited pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold important information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy.
Supporters of that measure said it was an attempt to keep pregnant women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities.
But Henry said the bill would allow unscrupulous or negligent physicians to withhold or provide inaccurate information without facing the potential of legal consequences.
Tony Lauinger, state chairman of the anti-abortion group Oklahomans for Life and vice president of the National Right to Life Committee, said each of the measures are designed to protect the unborn as well as pregnant women.
"It is just as important for a woman who is pregnant as a result of rape or incest as it is for any other woman to have the benefit of full and complete information prior to taking the irrevocable step of having her baby aborted," Lauinger said.
Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the New York-based abortion rights group, Center for Reproductive Rights, applauded the governor's vetoes. The group has said the ultrasound bill would have been among the strictest anti-abortion measures in the nation.
"The patient has no autonomy to make a decision. And the physician has no discretion," Toti said.
Henry did sign one abortion bill into law Friday: one requiring abortion clinics to post signs stating it is against the law for anyone to force a woman to have an abortion, and that an abortion will not be performed until the woman gives her voluntary consent.
Earlier this month, Henry signed three other abortion-related bills, including a ban on abortions based on the gender of the child and tighter restrictions on the use of the RU-486 abortion pill.
At least two other abortion measures are pending in the Oklahoma Legislature, including one that would require pregnant women to complete a lengthy questionnaire before receiving an abortion.