Senate urged to hear House anti-abortion bills
Wednesday, March 29th 2006, 4:18 am CST
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) A coalition of anti-abortion groups urged the state Senate Tuesday to schedule hearings and a vote on House-passed anti-abortion measures.
Seven anti-abortion bills that House supporters say will reduce the number of abortions in Oklahoma have been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where four similar anti-abortion measures died last month when they were not heard.
Mike Jestes of Oklahoma City, executive director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council, said he wants to keep the House measures alive and urged Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, to send the legislation straight to the Senate floor.
``We know Oklahoma will be closely watching the Senate,'' Jestes said.
In a statement, Morgan rejected the request and said the chairman of the committee, Sen. Bernest Cain, D-Oklahoma City, will decide whether the bills are heard.
Cain said he is still reviewing the measures and has not decided whether to allow a hearing. The deadline for reporting House bills out of Senate committees is April 6.
``Oklahomans, the majority, would like to see this legislation heard. But we don't believe it will receive a hearing,'' Jestes said.
Last year, the Legislature passed a measure that requires abortion providers to obtain a woman's ``informed consent'' before an abortion and parental notification before a minor could receive an abortion.
The House-passed bills would require girls under 18 to get their parents' permission before an abortion and require women who are 20 weeks or more pregnant be informed that their fetus could experience pain during an abortion.
Other measures would create a ``conscience clause'' for pharmacists to refuse to dispense medication that may end a pregnancy or assist in mercy killing and require physicians to report statistical data regarding abortions and natural miscarriages to the Department of Health.
``It's a pro-life, pro-woman piece of legislation,'' said Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Del City, a candidate for Congress and author of a measure that would require abortion clinics to offer ultrasound scans so women could view their fetus prior to an abortion.
But several of the measures faced stiff opposition in the House. Opponents said the ``conscience clause'' bill would interfere with the employee-employer relationship at pharmacies and that the abortion-reporting measure would create unnecessary paperwork for physicians who treat women who have an abortion or miscarriage.
Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, who is also running for Congress, said scheduling debate on the bills would serve the interest of both supporters and opponents.
``If there are legitimate concerns about the bill, let's have that discussion,'' Morgan said.