By TIM TALLEY Associated Press
February 28, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday to require abortion providers to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice in spite of opponents’ concerns that similar anti-abortion laws in other states have been blocked following costly court challenges.
The House voted 73-9 for the measure, sending it to the Senate. It is one of several anti-abortion measures filed in the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature, including one approved by the House earlier this month that requires abortion providers to notify women whose fetuses have fatal conditions that hospice services are available as an alternative to an abortion.
The author of the hospital privileges bill, Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said it is designed to protect unborn children as well as women who may develop medical complications during an abortion.
“This bill adds another protection,” said Ritze, an osteopathic physician. Ritze said women can develop serious infections following an abortion procedure.
“I’ve seen some terrible botched abortions,” he said. “You can’t realize how dangerous it is.”
But opponents said the language in the legislation is identical to bills that face constitutional challenges in other states. In a statement issued prior to the vote, Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care services, said similar state laws have been blocked from taking effect by state and federal courts in Alabama, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Mississippi.
Opponents of a bill passed in North Dakota in 2013 claim it would effectively make abortions illegal in the state. They claim it would be impossible for doctors who perform abortions to meet the number of hospital visits required to gain admitting privileges at a hospital because the procedure is safe and women rarely need further care requiring hospitalization.
Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said passage of the bill will likely force the state to spend money to defend it in court. Since 2006, Floyd said, the House and Senate have passed at least 18 bills that have been ruled unconstitutional.
“How much money is the state going to spend?” Floyd said. She said the state spent $150,000 in legal fees on a challenge in state district court on just one bill that was struck down. She said the district court decision is on appeal, meaning more money will be spent on legal fees.
“This is a legal matter,” Floyd said. “We have to be fiscally responsible.”
“Enough is enough,” said Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City. “There are some very serious concerns about this measure. Are we going to waste taxpayers’ dollars?”
Several anti-abortion measures adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature in recent years have been struck down as unconstitutional by state courts.
They include legislation that would have required women seeking abortions to be shown an ultrasound image while hearing a description of the fetus and another granting “personhood” status to a fertilized human egg.
Just last month, an Oklahoma County judge ruled the state’s law making it harder for women to obtain the morning-after pill is unconstitutional and prohibited its enforcement. The law required women 17 and older to have a prescription and show identification in order to obtain the Plan B One-Step pill and generic emergency contraceptives.