But abortion rights supporters can claim one small victory — an eighth bill vetoed by the Democratic governor that the Republican-controlled Legislature did not override before it adjourned Friday.
Lawmakers this year passed eight abortion-related measures through the House and Senate. Gov. Brad Henry signed four and vetoed four others, but the Legislature, with the help of anti-abortion Democrats, successfully overrode three vetoes.
The eighth bill, which would restrict insurance companies from providing coverage for elective abortions in Oklahoma, was vetoed by Henry in the legislative session's final days. With just two days left for lawmakers to complete their work, the House author did not attempt an override.
“We consider it a huge victory to have one veto stand this year,” said Keri Parks, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma.
Tony Lauinger, the chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said he will work to have that final piece of legislation enacted next year.
“It was wonderfully heartening and gratifying, the pro-life values our legislators exhibited as clearly as they did this year,” Lauinger said. “They did a wonderful job protecting innocent life.”
In his veto messages, the governor said the bills he rejected were unconstitutional and likely would face unsuccessful legal challenges in court.
“I don’t veto bills for political reasons. I veto them because I think they're bad policy or unconstitutional or will otherwise be detrimental to the state of Oklahoma,” Henry said. “There were eight anti-abortion bills passed this year. I signed four and I vetoed four. I feel like I'm kind of right down the middle.”
Most of the legislation approved by lawmakers this year was contained in omnibus abortion bills approved by the Legislature in 2008 and 2009; those were struck down in separate court cases for violating a state requirement that laws deal only with one subject.
This year, a New York-based abortion rights group, the Center for Reproductive Rights, already has challenged one of the newly enacted laws, which requires women to have an ultrasound before an abortion and listen to a doctor describe the image to her. National abortion rights groups say the law is the strictest ultrasound requirement in the country.
A judge granted a temporary restraining order that prevents enforcement of the law, and a hearing on a temporary injunction is scheduled for next month.
“The Legislature has enacted a host of highly restrictive measures limiting women's access to reproductive health care in the state,” said Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the New York group. She said the group is going to examine the measures that passed and consider more litigation.
Toti said it’s likely that legal challenges are ahead for other new laws, one of which requires women and abortion doctors to complete a lengthy questionnaire. Another new law provides immunity to doctors in “wrongful life” cases in which a woman sues if her physician withholds information about her pregnancy that could lead to a decision to abort.
The Legislature’s action this year also has energized a group of abortion rights supporters in Oklahoma who rallied at the Capitol during the session's final weeks and said they plan to target anti-abortion lawmakers in November.
Martha Skeeters, a women’s and gender studies professor at the University of Oklahoma, helped organize the group, the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice.
“Many women in this state concluded by the end of the legislative session that the Legislature was not so much pro-life as it was anti-woman,” Skeeters said. “It makes us look bad, and I think once Oklahomans realize what's at stake here and how bad this legislation really is, they're going to rise up against the folks who are doing this.”
Oklahoma abortion laws passed in 2010
Following is a list of abortion-related measures passed by the Legislature during the 2010 session and their current status.
—Senate Bill 1890, by Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, prohibits abortions based on the gender of the fetus, and imposes penalties for doctors who fail to comply. Signed by the governor and became law on April 2.
—SB 1891, by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, dubbed the “Freedom of Conscience Act,” prohibits employers from discriminating against health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions, medical procedures involving human embryos, fetal transplants or euthanasia. Signed by the governor and became law on April 2.
—SB 1902, by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, places tighter restrictions on the use and dispensing of the RU-486 abortion bill. Signed by the governor and became law on April 2.
—House Bill 2656, by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, prohibits so-called “wrongful-life” lawsuits by providing immunity to doctors in a case where a woman seeks damages if her physician withholds information or provides inaccurate information about their pregnancy. Vetoed by governor. Legislature overrode the veto and the bill became law on April 27.
—HB 2780, by Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell, requires women seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound performed at least one hour before the procedure and have a doctor describe in detail the ultrasound image to the woman. Authorizes penalties for doctors who fail to comply. Vetoed by the governor. Legislature overrode the veto and the bill became law on April 27. An Oklahoma County judge issued a temporary restraining order on May 3 preventing the law from being enforced. A hearing on a temporary injunction that would remain in place until the case is litigated is scheduled for July 19.
—HB 3075, by Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, requires signs in abortion clinics stating it is against the law for anyone to force a woman to have an abortion and provides penalties for failing to comply. Signed by the governor and became law on April 22.
—HB 3284, by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, known as the Statistical Reporting Act, requires women seeking an abortion and their doctors to fill out a detailed questionnaire that asks, among other things, the woman's age, race, pregnancy history and reasons for seeking an abortion. Doctors also must complete a questionnaire about any complications. Requires the information be posted on a state website. Imposes a range of penalties for doctors who fail to comply. Vetoed by the governor. Legislature overrode the veto. Law becomes effective Nov. 1.
—HB 3290, by Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, would prevent state insurance exchanges, created under the new federal health care law, from covering abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or to prevent the death of the mother. Also further restricts private health insurance plans from covering elective abortions, unless a woman purchases a separate supplemental policy. Vetoed by the governor.