Oklahoma governor vetoes bill criminalizing abortion

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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed legislation that would have made it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion, a measure that would have effectively outlawed the procedure in the state. | Associated Press file photo

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday vetoed legislation to make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion, a measure that would have effectively outlawed the procedure in the state.

In vetoing the measure just a day after the Legislature passed it, Fallin, a Republican who opposes abortion, said it was vague and would not withstand a legal challenge.

“The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'” Fallin said. “While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, said the measure was aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Dahm said he was considering whether to try to override the governor’s veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in each chamber, a threshold it did not meet in the House when it first passed. The bill passed on a 33-12 vote in the Senate with no debate on Thursday; it passed 59-9 in the 101-member House on April 21.

“Of course I’ll consider it,” Dahm said. “I’m weighing my options.”

The bill would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, including doctors. State law already makes it a felony for anyone who’s not a doctor to perform an abortion, and Dahm’s bill would have removed the exemption for physicians.

The bill, which abortion-rights group Center for Reproductive Rights said was the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma.

Dahm had said Thursday after the bill’s passage that he hoped it could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,” said Dahm, from Broken Arrow.

But abortion-rights supporters — and the state’s medical association — said the bill was unconstitutional. Sen. Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City Republican and the only physician in the Senate, described the measure as “insane” and voted against it.

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