Oklahoma's governor vetoes bill criminalizing performing abortions

Published: May. 19, 2016 at 11:40 AM CDT
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UPDATE: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed legislation that would make it a felony for doctors to perform an abortion, a measure that would have effectively outlawed the procedure in the state.

The Republican governor issued her veto Friday. 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.

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. Dahm's bill would have removed the exemption for physicians.

Lawmakers can still attempt a veto override, which requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

The Trust Women Foundation owns the Southwind Women's Center, a clinic that performs abortions in Wichita. The organization is also in the process of opening a second clinic in Oklahoma City.

Trust Women issued the following statement on Friday, in response to the governor's veto.

Trust Women appreciates Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s veto of SB 1552 Friday, but the foundation wants to remind its supporters that the Oklahoma Legislature could override her decision. The veto was good news for abortion providers at the end of a challenging week. “However, I don’t think her views about abortion have changed,” Trust Women founder and CEO Julie A. Burkhart says. “Oklahoma continues to be a politically hostile environment for women and their families.” Burkhart specifically notes that Fallin’s statement about the veto did not voice support for a woman’s right to have access to and control over her reproductive health care. The governor’s decision, according to her statement, hinged on the bill being “so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother.’ ” Construction on Trust Women’s clinic in Oklahoma City, the largest metropolitan area in the country without an abortion provider, continues. The clinic will open early this summer. SB 1552 has not changed our mission or our determination.


The Oklahoma Legislature has passed a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to three years in prison.

The Center for Reproductive Rights says the measure is the first of its kind in the nation. The bill also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma.

With no discussion or debate, the Senate voted 33-12 Thursday for the bill by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm.

A handful of Republicans joined with Democrats in voting against the bill, which now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin. A spokesman says Fallin will withhold comment until her staff has time to review it.

Julie Burkhart, CEO of the Trust Women Foundation says the bill will have a harmful impact on women.

"You're telling them that they don't have the right in that state to go to a qualified physician who can provide good quality health care to them," said Burkhart.

The Trust Women Foundation owns the Southwind Womens Center, a clinic that performs abortions in Wichita. She is also in the process of opening a second clinic in Oklahoma City. Burkhart says this bill could affect their operations.

"It would have a financial impact on us because we wouldn't be able to provide those services," said Burkhart.

Dahm says he's hopeful the measure could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. Abortion rights groups have said the bill is unconstitutional.

Eyewitness news asked Kansas lawmakers about the bill. While they haven't seen it in detail, Republican Gene Suellentrop says he could see something similar proposed here.

"There could likely be that type of legislation introduced," said Suellentrop.

Suellentrop says he understands there are situations where women find themselves with unwanted pregnancies.

"But there are concerns about those children that I think we have to take into consideration," said Suellentrop.

If Gov. Fallin signs the bill, doctors will still be able to perform abortions to save the mother's life.

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