- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill Thursday making abortion a crime, hoping to set into motion a legal challenge to the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and have abortion regulations returned to the states.

S.B. 1552 will head to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin, a pro-life Republican who has five business days to either sign or veto the legislation. If she does neither, the bill becomes law automatically.

If the bill is signed into law, performing an abortion will be punishable by up to three years in prison, effectively banning the procedure in Oklahoma. Doctors caught performing abortions would also have their medical licenses revoked.

Ms. Fallin has not indicated whether she will sign the bill, but she has a strong pro-life record in office. The first-term governor has “signed every pro-life measure” to reach her desk, according to her website, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, a bill to prohibit health insurance policies from covering abortions and a bill requiring the presence of a physician in the administration of RU-486, colloquially known as the “abortion pill.”

Pro-life groups lauded the Legislature’s move. Live Action President Lila Rose said “science has proven unarguably that human life begins at conception” and that physicians who perform abortions “should have their medical licenses taken away.”

“States clearly have the authority to set the standards for those performing medicine within their borders, and the Oklahoma Legislature should be commended for codifying what is obvious — that abortion is ‘unprofessional conduct’ for physicians,” Ms. Rose said in a statement. “Beyond being unprofessional, performing abortions is also unjust and barbaric.”

Having been approved in the House last month by a 59-9 margin, the bill passed the Senate on Thursday by a healthy 33-12 vote. Legislators in the overwhelmingly Republican chambers made clear their hope that the bill would lead to the repeal of the 1973 Supreme Court decision creating a constitutional right to abortion.

During deliberation, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. David Brumbaugh, said it is not the prerogative of the Legislature to enact legislation based on how it would be interpreted by the judiciary, but to pass bills that reflect what is right and what is wrong.

“Do we make laws because they’re moral and right, or do we make them based on what an unelected judicial occupant might question or want to overturn?” he asked. “The last time I looked, that’s why I thought we had a separation of power. It’s not about policy. It’s not about politics. It’s about principle.”

State laws challenging the precedent set in Roe, and reaffirmed in the 1992 Supreme Court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, have a meager track record in court.

John C. Eastman, founding director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, said this bill’s survival depends on the legitimacy of the Roe decision.

“Roe is one of the most egregious and wrong decisions in our nation’s history,” Mr. Eastman said in a statement. “Regulating health and safety was, before that, always a state issue.”

Mr. Eastman said the legislation is “perfectly constitutional” under the original meaning of the Constitution but expressed doubt that a majority of the Supreme Court’s current members would see it that way.

“I doubt that the current Court would so find, but in this instance, the Court is simply wrong and I applaud the efforts at resistance to the Court’s continuing assertion of judicial supremacy,” he said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based pro-choice advocacy group, has threatened to file a lawsuit if the bill becomes law.

“This ban on abortion is a new low,” Amanda Allen, an attorney for the group, said in a statement. “When abortion is illegal, women and their health, futures and families suffer.”

“The Center for Reproductive Rights is closely watching this bill and we strongly urge Governor Fallin to reject this cruel and unconstitutional ban,” she said.

Other pro-choice groups were quick to denounce the legislation. Nancy Stanwood, board chairwoman of Physicians for Reproductive Health, called the bill “dangerous and unconstitutional.”

“As a doctor, I am especially concerned that the Oklahoma Legislature is suggesting that abortion is somehow separate from the practice of medicine,” Ms. Stanwood said in a statement. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion is an essential part of the full spectrum of women’s health care, and with this legislation politicians are creating a grave and irresponsible barrier against women in need of reproductive care.”

Oklahoma has repeatedly attempted to restrict abortion, but all of the measures have either been struck down by courts or remain mired in litigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined in 2013 to hear the case of an overturned Oklahoma law requiring women to procure ultrasounds before undergoing abortion procedures. A 2014 law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is working its way through courts.

Louisiana and Utah enacted similar bans on abortion in 1991, but both were found to be unconstitutional.

The South Carolina General Assembly passed a bill banning abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy. That legislation is on the desk of Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican who has indicated that she will almost certainly sign it.

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