After last year's Oklahoma House Bill 1595 received a setback, state legislators are reintroducing parts of the bill individually. Because HB 1595 had many different parts, the Oklahoma courts deemed it in violation of the state's single-subject rule.
Three bills modeled after parts of the original HB 1595 were approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Feb. 11 and will move on to the full Senate. Author of those three bills, Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, said he believes they will receive bipartisan support like HB 1595 had in the past.
Receiving the least amount of controversy at the committee hearing, Senate Bill 1890 prohibits women from getting an abortion based solely on the reasoning of the gender of the fetus.
"All too often, government is reactive rather than being proactive," Lamb said. "In other parts of the world, women are choosing abortions because the baby will be a girl. We wanted to have a piece of legislation that said, 'If you are little boy or a little girl, that is no reason for you to aborted.'"
Lamb's two other bills cleared at a closer margin. Senate Bill 1891 allows physicians the right to not perform abortions if it goes against their personal beliefs, and Senate Bill 1902 seeks to regulate the use RU-486, a drug commonly used in abortion procedures.
Opposing the three bills, Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said in committee that each bill was a hindrance on women's ability to choose.
"How far will we continue?" she asked. "I have been at the Capitol for five years, and every year I see more and more proposals of bills where they restrict a woman's right to choose. It's proactive to not get pregnant, and government should start there."
Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, also opposed two of the abortion bills. He said in committee that legislators have lost sight of the issue and should invest in sex education and prenatal care instead.
"Statistically, 17 percent who have unintended pregnancies are teenagers; the bulk of it is in poverty," Wilson said. "These bills are picking on women."
The members of the state House of Representatives are also working on legislation pertaining to abortion. Introduced this session, House Bill 3075 seeks to mandate a sign posting at each location in the state that performs abortions that clearly informs the patient of their rights.
Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, said she wrote HB 3075 in hopes of lowering the rate of women who may feel coerced to get an abortion.
"All too often, women have come to me, telling me that they did feel like they were being forced to have abortion and regret it," Hamilton said. "To force someone to kill her child, damage them, it violates her human rights."
Hamilton said there is no requirement on how much money is to be spent on a sign or how nice the sign is as long it is visible to the patient. The sign would tell a woman it is illegal to be forced into an abortion and the doctor would be legally obligated to inform the woman and let her know her rights before going through with the procedure.
The House has two other pieces of legislation from last session that have been carried over.
Stirring the most controversy from last session's HB 1595, the statistical reporting portion of the bill is currently waiting for a court ruling before going forward.
Lamb said legislators are waiting for the judge's ruling scheduled to be released Feb. 19 to determine how to approach the abortion statistical information bill.
As reported in December 2009 by Oklahoma Gazette, Oklahoma County District Judge Daniel Owens extended a temporary restraining order until Feb. 19. The order prevents the state from asking women to fill out a 10-page questionnaire when seeking an abortion, and also stops the state from publishing from answers on a planned Web site.
"There was a lot of misinformation about this legislation (in regards to the statistical reporting)," Lamb said. "Many of the questions asked in the form (are) derived from the form created by the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood."
He stressed that the statistical research would not make the identity of the mother seeking an abortion easier to determine.
Hamilton said she also believed the statistical reporting portion of the bill was misrepresented, explaining that the legislation would only create an aggregated report available online, rather than the individual reports.
The intended purpose of the bill, she said, was to study why women get abortions and make legislation to help women and provide them more choices. "LeighAnne Manwarren