Oklahoma committee advances bill to strip licenses of doctors who perform abortions
A bill that would strip the medical licenses of doctors who perform abortions passed out of a House committee Tuesday.
House Bill 1182 would direct the Oklahoma Medical Board and the Oklahoma State Board of Osteopathic Examiners to revoke the licenses of doctors who perform abortions except in cases where the procedure is needed to save the mother's life or prevent serious injury. The bill passed out of the House Public Health Committee by a 6-4 vote.
The bill's author, Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Sallisaw, said he hoped the bill would save the lives of thousands of unborn children.
“I say it’s time to recognize we’ve been doing wrong and turn around and start to do right," Olsen said.
The bill is similar to one the Oklahoma Legislature passed in 2016 that would have made it a felony for doctors to perform abortions. It also would have revoked the licenses of doctors who performed abortions in cases where the procedure was not necessary to save the life of the mother. Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill, saying it was vague and could not withstand legal challenges.
During Tuesday's hearing, Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, argued that Olsen's bill would be a waste of taxpayer money, since the state would be obligated to defend it against legal challenges. But Olsen said the state attorney general's office would be responsible for defending the law. That responsibility wouldn't add to the cost of operating the attorney general's office, he said.
"His salary is the same, the salary of his staff is the same," Olsen said.
Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, said he doubted the bill would reduce the number of abortions performed nationwide, since women seeking abortions in Oklahoma could simply go out of state to have the procedure performed. Olsen acknowledged that many women would likely go out of state for abortions, but said he hoped the bill would prevent the procedure from being performed in at least some cases.
The committee also passed a bill that would bar doctors from performing abortions after the mother knows the sex of the fetus. Pregnant women would be required to sign an affidavit swearing to no knowledge of the fetus' sex before the procedure can be performed. Current state law bars doctors from performing abortions in cases where they know the mother is seeking an abortion solely on the basis of the sex of the fetus.
The two bills are among a number of pieces of legislation filed this year that would restrict access to abortions in Oklahoma. Another, Senate Bill 13, would have reclassified abortion as murder. Sen. Jason Smalley, the chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services committee, said the bill will not be brought up for a committee vote this year.
Also at Tuesday's hearing, a bill that would have made the Oklahoma Legislature responsible for approving new school vaccination requirements failed by a 3-7 vote. Under current law, the state Health Department sets school vaccination requirements.