By Sean Murphy
OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill that would make it more difficult for girls younger than 18 to receive an abortion without notifying their parents was one of three abortion-related measures that easily cleared a House committee on Tuesday.
The House Public Safety Committee voted 7-3 to approve two bills that limit the ability of teenage girls to have a judge allow them to get an abortion without parental consent.
One of the bills eliminates the judicial bypass procedure altogether, while a second measure allows the process but only from a judge in the county where the girl resides. A third bill adds more than two dozen questions that abortion providers must answer in a questionnaire gathered by the state.
Abortion opponents maintain the state's current judicial bypass option is being exploited by abortion providers who seek out judges who routinely approve the practice.
"The judicial bypass process has become a rubber stamp for judges, many times who are identified by the abortion industry," said Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life. "A young girl needs the guidance and the support of a parent at a time of crisis in her life."
But those who are against the measure argue that judicial bypass is critical for teenagers facing an unwanted pregnancy who might suffer abuse from parents who learn of the pregnancy.
Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, said the judicial bypass is a rarely used, but necessary option for girls who often come from troubled backgrounds and may not have parents who are involved in their lives.
"In this building, very few of us walk in the shoes these young women are forced to," McDaniel said. "We're putting up more barriers for them."
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based abortion research group, 37 of the 38 states that require parental involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion include a judicial bypass procedure that allows the minor to obtain approval from a court.
But Guttmacher policy analyst Elizabeth Nash said several states, including Oklahoma, are taking steps to further restrict the use of judicial bypass.
"The idea of tying all these criteria to the judicial bypass is not very effective in trying to assess an individual teen's situation. It also places a burden on the teen, where it's already hard enough to navigate the judicial process," Nash said. "What we're seeing here is part and parcel of making it more difficult for a teen to access abortion care."
Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room physician from Grove, opposed all three measures and said the new questions being added to the abortion questionnaire were unnecessary.
"Was an infant born alive as the result of an abortion?" Cox asked, referring to one of the additions to the questionnaire. "What kind of question is that?"
Cox suggested the extensive questionnaire, which includes more than 40 main questions and dozens more smaller questions, is simply an attempt to overburden and intimidate abortion providers.
"We keep passing stuff like this, (abortions) will be done in back alleys with coat hangers, people," Cox said in debate against the measure. "I don't know how much longer we're going to ... play political games with women's health and a woman's right to choose what they think is best for them and their health and their family.
"It's a decision that should be made between the woman, her God and her doctor. The government doesn't have any place in it."
Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, who sponsored the abortion reporting bill, said his intent was to update the reporting requirements to reflect changes in abortion law passed since the Statistical Abortion Reporting Act took effect in 2010.
House Bill 1361: http://bit.ly/Xz3LHS
House Bill 1588: http://bit.ly/YbbnT0
House Bill 2015: http://bit.ly/14R1nSZ