OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Republican senator's attempt to override Gov. Brad Henry's veto of a contentious anti-abortion bill came up one vote short on Wednesday in the Oklahoma Senate.
Sen. Charles Laster, D-Shawnee, who originally voted for the bill, switched his stand and voted against an override motion lodged by Sen. James A. Williamson, R-Tulsa.
As a result, the override bid failed on a 31-17 vote. It takes a two-thirds majority, or 32 votes, to override a veto in the 48-member Senate.
Under legislative rules, unlimited override attempts are allowed during a two-year legislative session. Williamson said he will bring up his motion ``as many times as necessary'' until the end of the 2008 Legislature.
Laster said he changed his mind after talking to the governor and medical professionals about the legislation.
He said he had been a consistent supporter of anti-abortion measures, but believes the Williamson bill is too restrictive.
He said the proposal ``holds poorer Oklahomans to a different standard than everyone else and I can't support that.''
Laster, Senate majority leader, said the measure undermines the doctor-patient relationship and interferes with private health insurance coverage.
Medical organizations opposed the legislation, saying language preventing doctors from ``encouraging'' abortions could keep physicians from giving medical advice to women with troubled pregnancies.
Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, criticized a provision that would require insurance companies to offer a separate rider for elective abortions.
Rice called it an ``extreme'' measure and speculated it was more about politics than anything else.
Williamson said the bill was merely aimed at preventing the use of state facilities and taxpayer dollars for abortions unless a mother's life is at stake.
Most abortions are now performed at clinics and the bill would not stop those procedures.
Williamson said he introduced the legislation after two nurses came to him with reports of abortions being performed at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City.
``You don't want to be known as the group that opened up the taxpayers' checkbook to what they are doing over there,'' Williamson said before the vote on his override motion.
Henry, in a statement, said he appreciated the senators who voted to sustain his veto and ``I respect the position of those who did not. This is a very difficult and very emotional issue and I know each senator did what he or she believes is best for the state of Oklahoma.
``No one makes decisions of this nature lightly, but given the flaws in the legislation, I believe there was really no other course of action.''
He said he backed reasonable restrictions on abortions ``but this legislation triggered too many unintended consequences with respect to medical care, the health of the mother and the treatment of rape and incest victims.''
In his veto message, Henry said the bill did more harm than good and would require poor women who are victims of rape or incest ``no option but to carry a fetus to term, no matter how horrific and violent the circumstances.''.
``There are a number of fatal birth defects in which there is no chance of survival and yet Senate Bill 714 would add to a family's suffering and medical costs by forcing a woman to carry that fetus to term,'' he said.
All 24 Republicans and seven Democrats voted for the override motion.
1/14/2007 - State Lawmakers Seek To Build On Anti-Abortion Laws
3/12/2007 - House Blocks Distribution Of Abortion Literature
3/14/2007 - House Votes To Tighten Abortion Requirements
4/3/2007 - State House Passes Measure To End Medicaid Abortions
4/8/2007 - Oklahoma House Ignores Its Doctor In Abortion Debate
4/18/2007 - Governor Vetoes Anti-Abortion Bill