The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 16, 2013

Oklahoma Senate approves abortion measures

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate easily approved three abortion-related bills on Tuesday, including two that would make it more difficult for minors to receive an abortion, over the objection of some abortion rights supporters who claim the measures are an attempt to restrict the practice in Oklahoma.

Two of the bills restrict the use of "judicial bypass," a procedure that allows girls younger than 18 to ask a judge's permission to get an abortion without parental consent. The first would eliminate the exemption that allows a minor to avoid parental notification of they seek a judicial bypass

"This is a bill about the sovereignty of the relationship between a parent and a child," said Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, the Senate sponsor of the bill.

Abortion opponents claim Oklahoma's judicial bypass is being exploited by abortion providers who seek out judges to routinely approve the practice, but abortion rights supporters say it is rarely used and necessary in cases where teenagers facing an unwanted pregnancy might face abuse from upset parents.

Sen. Connie Johnson said of the roughly 1,000 abortions on minors performed every year in Oklahoma, only 20 involve the use of judicial bypass.

"We do not have a court that is rubber stamping abortions for minors," said Johnson, D-Forest Park. "I'm very suspect why we have to bother something that is not broken."

A second bill requires a judicial waiver be sought in the home county of the minor seeking an abortion, a move that Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said would prevent girls from "venue shopping" for a judge willing to grant the bypass. Treat's bill also requires a parent granting consent of a minor's abortion to present a government-issued identification.

A third bill adds more than a dozen questions to the list that abortion providers must answer, including several that are related to abortion-related measures that have passed in recent years. One example is a question that asks doctors at which hospital they have privileges at the time they perform the abortion, a requirement that was imposed by a recently approved law.

Opponents have argued the measure is an attempt to intimidate and overburden abortion providers.

"It is a fundamental right to have access to reproductive health care, and this is a burden on the exercise of that right," said Gary Taylor of Oklahoma City, who was one of about a half-dozen abortion rights supporters clad in pink shirts in the Senate gallery. "These bills are part of an effort to do away with all abortions in Oklahoma, in my opinion."

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