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Okla. enacts strict abortion measures

The Okla. Senate votes to override the governor's veto of two abortion measures, including one that an abortion-rights group has said would be among the nation's strictest measures.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Oklahoma Senate voted Tuesday to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of two abortion measures, including one that an abortion-rights group has said would be among the nation's strictest anti-abortion measures. The votes mean the bills become law immediately.

The narrow override votes in the Republican-controlled Senate came a day after the state House voted overwhelmingly to do the same. Henry, a Democrat, had said the measures were an unlawful intrusion into citizens' private lives and decisions and lacked exemptions for rape and incest victims.

"Both laws will be challenged and, in all likelihood, overturned by the courts as unconstitutional," Henry said after the override votes. "I fear this entire exercise will ultimately be a waste of taxpayers' time and money."

One of the bills requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion. The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights has said it is one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country.

The other measure prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy. Supporters of that measure have said it is an attempt to keep pregnant women from discriminating against fetuses with disabilities.

Lawmakers in other nearby states have also recently passed laws placing new restrictions on abortion. Nebraska enacted laws barring the procedure at and after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the assertion fetuses can feel pain at that point and requiring women be screened before having abortions for mental health issues and other risk factors indicating if they might have problems afterward.

Kansas lawmakers approved a bill to require doctors to report more detailed information to the state about the late-term abortions they perform. The measure also would allow patients and family members to sue doctors over legally questionable late-term procedures. Gov. Mark Parkinson vetoed the measure on April 15, and supporters are expected to try to override his action.

The Oklahoma Senate's override votes on both measures were 36-12, the minimum support of three-quarters of the 48-member Senate that was required.

Henry had vetoed similar legislation in 2008, and was also overridden by lawmakers. But an Oklahoma County judge struck down the bill before it took effect on the grounds that it contained multiple subjects, in violation of the state constitution's requirement that bills deal with a single subject.

Henry has signed other measures on abortion including a law requiring clinics to post signs stating that a woman cannot be forced to have an abortion, saying an abortion will not be performed until the woman gives her voluntary consent and making abortions based on child's gender illegal.