- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 11, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - After years of trying unsuccessfully to have a baby, Derina Soles of Oklahoma said she was excited to attend her first ultrasound and find out the gender of the fetus she had been carrying about 18 weeks.

But that excitement quickly turned to disappointment when Soles learned her fetus had anencephaly, a rare and untreatable defect in which a baby’s brain and skull don’t form properly.

“There is no chance of survival,” Soles, of Norman, told The Associated Press. “It would have died either in the birth canal or shortly thereafter.”

Soles, 31, immediately knew that being forced to carry to full term would be too emotionally difficult, and she decided to terminate the pregnancy.

Under a bill the Oklahoma Legislature is considering, Soles wouldn’t have had that option.

The measure by Muskogee Republican Rep. George Faught would prohibit doctors from performing an abortion if they know it is being sought because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a genetic abnormality. The bill sailed easily through the state House on a 67-16 vote last month, but some Republican lawmakers acknowledge they are growing weary of efforts by some of their GOP colleagues to continue to push some of the most far-reaching anti-abortion measures in the U.S.

That doesn’t deter Faught.

“I think life begins at conception, so that’s my position,” said Faught, a staunchly anti-abortion lawmaker. “Someone needs to speak for those children, too, and that’s what I feel like we’re trying to do.”

Earlier this year, two first-term Republican House members surprised their colleagues on a House committee when they voted against Faught’s bill. One described himself as “pro-life” but said it was fiscally irresponsible to vote in favor of a bill that would draw lawsuits.

Last year, after the House and Senate approved a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed it, saying that despite her anti-abortion views, the measure would never withstand constitutional muster.

Sen. Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City Republican and the only medical doctor in the chamber, described himself as a “pro-life” Catholic, but said he elected not to hear Faught’s bill in his committee for the same reason.

“No. 1, it’s unconstitutional,” Yen said. “No. 2, it jumps between the doctor-patient relationship.”

Faught’s bill has been reassigned to a second committee, and while it may not receive a hearing before a key deadline passes on Friday, the Senate’s Republican leader disputed the characterization of the bill as controversial.

“I don’t think it’s controversial to defend life at any stage,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz.

But Yen said some of his GOP colleagues have told him privately that they feel political pressure to vote for anti-abortion bills even though they may think they are too far-reaching.

“I think there are some of our caucus that say: ‘Oh, it’s a pro-life bill, I have to vote yes,’” Yen said. “I guess I don’t blame them, but I don’t have to do that. And I won’t.”

Only two states have passed a law similar to Faught’s proposal that prohibits abortions based on fetal abnormalities - North Dakota and Indiana, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. The New York-based abortion rights group has successfully sued to block seven separate anti-abortion measures in Oklahoma over the last six years.

The law in Indiana has been blocked by a federal court.

Soles said she found it deeply troubling that lawmakers believe someone like her should be forced to carry a fetus to term when the baby would inevitably die.

“I would have been watching my body change, going through the motions of being pregnant,” Soles said, fighting back tears. “What do you do? Do you go shopping for clothes? Do you have a baby shower? Do you prepare a nursery? How do you wrap your mind around it? You can’t.

“I wanted this baby more than anything. It’s been devastating.”


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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