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Final Action On Abortion Bill Delayed

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- An effort to win final legislative passage of a bill to prevent state resources and hospitals from being used for abortions was delayed Tuesday in the Oklahoma Senate.

Sen. James Williamson, R-Tulsa, said he asked Sen. Charles Laster, Democratic floor leader, to bring the revived, House-passed legislation up for a vote but Laster refused.

"I asked him why and he said: 'I just don't want to,"' Williamson said.

"He's just playing politics," said Laster, D-Shawnee. "They wanted to lay a bill on the desk at 11 a.m. and they wanted a vote at 1:30 p.m. I just told him we needed time to read it and study the consequences and that it could be brought up tomorrow, and it will be."

Sen. Charles Laughlin, R-Woodward, co-floor leader, will be in charge when the legislation is brought up on Wednesday and Williamson said he has been assured the bill will be considered.

Laster has drawn the ire of anti-abortion forces for voting to sustain Gov. Brad Henry's veto of an earlier version of the legislation after voting for the bill when it passed the Senate.

Meanwhile, some doctors continued to lobby against the proposal, saying changes attached to a substitute measure in the House did not remove their main arguments against the legislation.

Dana Stone, state chairwoman of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said it still interferes with the ability of doctors to provide standard medical care to women with troubled pregnancies.

"They still have not put in any exceptions for the mother's health," she said.

The measure allows for abortions to be performed to save the life of a mother, but critics say it does not consider a mother's future health by forcing her to carry a fetus to term when she has a medical condition such as cancer.

The legislation was amended in the House to allow for exceptions for rape and incest. Stone said most abortions in rape and incest cases are now performed at private clinics.

She said the bill will keep doctors from performing abortions in cases where a woman's health "will continue to deteriorate" if the procedure is not allowed. She said some cases involve textbook fetal abnormalities where it is known the fetus will not survive.

Stone also said the bill will affect not only uninsured women with troubled pregnancies, but will prevent abortion as an option in emergency procedures that are now paid by insurance companies.

Those procedures will have to be paid for in the future by the patient, unless a separate insurance policy is purchased, Stone said. She said the cost could be in the thousands of dollars.

The new legislation, approved in the House Monday on a 77-19 vote, was opposed in its original form by the Oklahoma State Medical Association and other medical groups.

Williamson said he introduced the original bill after nurses informed him the procedures were being performed at the University of Oklahoma Medical School. He said the gist of the bill is to prevent the use of taxpayer funds or facilities for abortions.

He described as false suggestions the bill could cause accreditation problems for the medical school.

"The fact is under federal law, OU could not be subject to discrimination by an accrediting entity for refusing to require or provide such training or to perform abortions," Williamson said.

The senator said the bill is opposed mainly by a group of doctors who feel it is acceptable to "use taxpayer dollars to terminate the life of imperfect children."

Proponents of the legislation, he said, feel "life is sacred" and pregnancies should be allowed to "go to the natural end."

Related Stories:

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

4/24/2007 Lawmaker Seeks Veto Override

4/25/2007 Abortion Bill Veto Override Fails

5/8/2007 Williamson Sets New Override Attempt On Abortion Bill

5/8/2007 Oklahomans Weigh In on Abortion Issue

5/9/2007 Override Of Abortion Veto Falls Short

5/14/2007 Oklahoma House Resurrects Anti-Abortion Bill
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