OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry's veto of an abortion bill that will require women seeking abortions to complete lengthy questionnaires beforehand about their finances, education and relationships.
The Senate voted 33-15 on Tuesday to override the Democratic governor's veto. The House easily voted to override the veto on Monday. Of the eight abortion-related bills the Republican-controlled Legislature has passed this session, Henry vetoed two others.
One, which would require women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before receiving an abortion, is on hold because of a legal challenge. "It's disappointing because every veto override just triggers more lawsuits and legal bills for taxpayers," said Henry spokesman Paul Sund.
"Similar abortion laws passed by the Legislature were challenged and thrown out by the courts last year, and the latest versions are probably headed for the same fate."
The most recent measure will "very likely" see a legal challenge, said Stephanie Toti, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. The New York-based group has also challenged the ultrasound law. "Both the ultrasound and the reporting requirements are the most strict of those kind of laws that we've seen anywhere in the country," Toti said.
"No other state has a law that requires women to listen to a description of the ultrasound image, and certainly no other state has a law that requires them to fill out a 20-page questionnaire." The most recent bill mandates women complete a 38-question form, which includes multiple subsections, answering questions about their race, education, income, relationships and reasons for seeking an abortion.
Doctors will be required to fill out an 11-question form about any complications that arise during the procedure. Those who fail to comply could face fines or the loss of their licenses. The information from the questionnaires will be compiled by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and posted on the agency's website, but must not include the woman's name, address, hometown or other identifying information. Supporters say the information will help lawmakers understand why women get abortions and craft policies to prevent more of them from occurring.
"This is to stop future abortions from happening," said Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "This is about gathering data to prevent the need for women to make this choice." But Republican Sen. Jim Reynolds of Oklahoma City, who opposes abortion, voted against the bill and said he found it "appalling" that information from a personal questionnaire regarding a medical procedure would be provided to a government entity.
A hearing is set for July 19 on the ultrasound law after the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit to stop it from taking effect. An Oklahoma County judge granted a temporary restraining order, and the next hearing will be on a temporary injunction that would last for the duration of the litigation.