The bill was one of five anti-abortion bills overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled Senate. Several Democrats also supported the bills.
The other abortion measures would require women to complete a lengthy questionnaire before receiving an abortion, mandate certain signs be posted in an abortion clinics and prevent so-called “wrongful-life” lawsuits that argue a baby would have been better off aborted. Another bill would prohibit state insurance exchanges, created under the new federal health care law, from covering abortions.
“Senate Republicans continue to fight for life of the unborn, and today we saw members from both parties join together in supporting this great cause,” said Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.
The ultrasound bill, which requires the use of a vaginal probe if that procedure would more clearly show the fetus, drew the most heated debate.
“You’re going to force someone to undergo an invasive medical procedure,” said state Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, who opposed the bill. “You have to invasively put an instrument inside the woman. This could be your 15-year-old daughter who was raped.”
Of the five women in the Senate, all Democrats, two voted for the bill and three voted against. Overall, it passed 35-11.
Democratic Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the ultrasound bill two years ago, arguing it had no exclusions for victims of rape or incest, but his veto was overridden when anti-abortion Democrats joined with Republicans.
Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, who sponsored the ultrasound bill, said the goal was to provide women seeking an abortion with as much information possible before they had the procedure.
Another bill would require women seeking an abortion and their doctors to complete a 38-question form that asks, among other things, the woman’s age, race, education, number of previous pregnancies and reason for seeking an abortion.
Sen. Clark Jolley, who sponsored that bill, said it would help policymakers answer questions about which women seek abortions and why, providing valuable data that could be used to craft policies to prevent abortions.
“This is an effort to try and reduce the incidents of a tragic procedure that is used way too often,” said Jolley, R-Edmond.
The reporting requirements and the ultrasound bill are among the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country, said Jennifer Mondino, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which successfully challenged abortion-related bills passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2008 and 2009.
Seven of the anti-abortion bills passed by the Legislature so far this year were included previously in omnibus bills that were struck down in separate court cases for violating a state requirement that bills deal with only one subject.
“We’re very disappointed that the Legislature has decided to pass these bills and open themselves up to possible legal challenges in the future,” Mondino said. “We’ve been monitoring the bills, and it’s definitely a significant possibility we’ll be challenging some or even all the bills.”
The ultrasound, wrongful-life and abortion clinic sign bills now head to the governor for consideration. The other measures will return to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.