Seven pro-life bills enacted, insurance measure vetoed

By Patrick B. McGuigan
Published: 31-May-2010

Seven anti-abortion measures entered Oklahoma statute books as a result of the 2010 legislative session. Most of the measures were sparked by controversial judicial decisions concerning the state’s “single subject” rule. An eighth measure fell short late in the session as a result of Governor Brad Henry’s veto.

Anthony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK on Saturday (May 29), expressed regret that the Legislature did not override Henry’s veto of H.B. 3290 (the health insurance and abortion bill). However, he said pro-life activists were nonetheless grateful to legislators in both parties for their actions this year.
Lauinger elaborated on his generally upbeat assessment of the 2010 session this way: “As a coach once said, ‘We didn’t lose; we just ran out of time.’

“With less than two hours remaining in this year’s legislative session before the constitutionally-mandated adjournment time of 5 p.m. (on Friday, May 28), the House still had several budget bills to be enacted in order to fund essential government services for the coming fiscal year.

“The governor waited till the eleventh hour to veto HB 3290, leaving the Legislature very little time to act. And, of course, the governor knew the work load that remained for the House and Senate in the final days because he and they had just reached a budget agreement which then necessitated enacting scores of individual funding bills.

“We regret being unable to override yet another pro-abortion veto by Governor Henry, but we applaud the Oklahoma House and Senate for their magnificent accomplishments this year in defending unborn children, expectant mothers, and pro-life health-care professionals. We look forward to working with our legislators to enact the bill restricting insurance coverage for elective abortions next year.”

In an interview, Lauinger told CapitolBeatOK, “It would not be possible to overstate the significance of what our legislators achieved this year in promoting the pro-life cause in Oklahoma.” He believes, “our state Legislature did more this session to promote a culture of life than did the Legislature of any other state.”

The Legislature, Lauinger observed, “did two years’ worth of pro-life work in one. They regained all the ground that had been lost when two recent court decisions had nullified — on a technicality (the arbitrary single-subject rule) — all of the pro-life progress that had been made through enactment of major legislation in both 2008 and 2009.”

In all, the Legislature passed eight measures either limiting abortion access directly or requiring provision of information before abortions. Of the eight measures approved this year, four were vetoed. Three of those vetoes were overridden. Thus, seven of the eight proposals Lauinger and his allies sought made it into state law.

Lauinger noted that Gov. Henry had, during his tenure, four vetoes of pro-life measures overridden (three in 2010, one in 2008).

On Wednesday, Lauinger had argued for override of the H.B. 3290 veto, contending the measure had strong legislative support and would “prohibit health-insurance plans in Oklahoma established under the new federal health-care law from including coverage for elective abortions.” He and his allies did not believe Oklahomans should be forced “to pay for other people’s abortions.”

On the other side of the abortion divide, Nathaniel Batchelder of The Peace House in Oklahoma City supported the state’s Planned Parenthood Federation in a week-long (May 24-26) push to “storm the Capitol” in support of “reproductive justice.”

Activists wore pink and were seen in the legislative galleries, especially the Senate, throughout the final week of the legislative session. Batchelder said the abortion bills Henry had vetoed were “considered by women’s rights activists to be repressive and cruel.”

At a Capitol news conference on Friday (May 28), members of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice said they had just begun to work on the issues. Batchelder predicted members of the coalition will work “to defeat the Representatives who had sponsored” the measures.

The targeted bills were H.B. 2780 (requiring ultrasounds before abortions); House Bill 2656 (preventing “wrongful birth” and “wrongful life” torts); House Bill 3284 (requiring doctors and patients to complete questionnaires concerning abortion before provision of the procedure); and H.B. 3290 (prohibiting abortion insurance coverage). 

Legislators who met with members of the coalition included state Sens. Andrew Rice and Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City, and Judy Eason McIntyre of Tulsa. State Reps. Jeannie McDaniel of Tulsa and Ryan Kiesel of Seminole also applauded the coalition’s efforts.

Gov. Brad Henry had vetoed H.B. 3290 late Wednesday night, saying the bill’s restrictions were onerous and unconstitutional. The entire, united text of the governor’s veto message of the final abortion-related measure of the 2010 legislative session follows:

“While I support reasonable restrictions on abortion, this legislation creates onerous and unconstitutional health insurance restrictions, particularly for rape and incest victims. By requiring these victims and other women to prospectively purchase separate and special abortion insurance before a pregnancy occurs, HB 3290 unfairly and punitively limits the health options of these individuals. Under this legislation, if a rape victim did not report her assault to law enforcement within 48 hours and later decided to seek an abortion, it would be declared an elective procedure and the individual would be required to have previously purchased special insurance.
“If an incest victim did not report her assault to the police in the time period specified by this legislation, she too would be denied coverage unless she had the clairvoyant foresight to purchase special insurance before the crime against her was committed.

“Rape and incest victims should be treated with dignity and respect, not subjected to a state-imposed Catch-22 that denies them insurance coverage at such a critical time. HB 3290 creates an unconstitutional barrier to legal medical treatment protected by this nation’s highest court and would result in an expensive lawsuit and potentially futile legal battle for the state.”