Opinion: Message to Oklahoma: Give up on your unconstitutional abortion ban

Sandy Springer, of Edmond, Okla., stands with other members of Bound 4 Life, an anti-abortion group, at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on March 10.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was absolutely right to veto a bill on Friday that would have made it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, except to save the life of the woman. Not only did the measure set a bad policy, it was obviously unconstitutional and could not have survived a court challenge. Nonetheless, there are rumblings among legislators about trying to override Fallin’s veto. That would be a waste of time. They should stand down immediately.

In recent years, there has been a torrent of state bills and laws across the country designed to discourage or impede women from exercising their constitutional right to have abortions. Still, Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 1552 stands out as particularly brazen. Most of those onerous state laws revolve around unnecessary requirements — such as requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges or mandating that clinics be outfitted to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Such laws are merely designed to make it more difficult for women to have abortions.


But the Oklahoma law goes so much farther that even the governor -- a Republican and avowed opponent of abortion who has signed into law in Oklahoma a number of extreme abortion restrictions -- couldn’t bring herself to sign it. In her veto message, she reaffirmed her desire to see the Supreme Court’s abortion decision in Roe vs. Wade reexamined, but said this bill “cannot accomplish that reexamination.” She called it a “vague and ambiguous expansion of criminal liability.”

Oklahoma lawmakers have until the close of their session this Friday at 5 p.m. to override the veto. That would require a vote of two-thirds of the members of both legislative chambers, first in the Senate, where the bill passed 33 to 12, then in the House, where the bill passed 59 to 9 — but with 33 members excused. No doubt the legislators who want the override know it will be little more than a political statement — since the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed its 1973 decision in Roe and would almost certainly overturn this foolish new law. The Legislature should drop the matter.

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