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Oklahoma House OKs bill to suspend abortion doctor licenses

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 file photo, abortion opponents cheer for a speaker at a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma House approved a bill on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, to suspend the medical license of any doctors who perform abortions, setting up a likely court challenge if the measure is signed into law.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 file photo, abortion opponents cheer for a speaker at a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma House approved a bill on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, to suspend the medical license of any doctors who perform abortions, setting up a likely court challenge if the measure is signed into law.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House approved a bill on Thursday to suspend the medical license of doctors who perform abortions, setting up a likely court challenge if the measure is signed into law.

The House voted 71-21 for the bill, almost entirely along partisan lines with Republicans in favor.

The bill was the first measure scheduled for a hearing in the House this session and prompted hours of discussion and debate.

“The content of this legislation is problematic. It’s dangerous," said Cyndi Munson, an Oklahoma City Democrat. “How do you know better and what gives you the authority to tell someone what they can and cannot do with their body?"

The bill's author, Rep. Jim Olsen, a Roland Republican, said the goal of the bill is to eliminate abortion in the state.

“This is our time to make history," Olsen told his colleagues. “We can do something today that we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren that we did something to stop this horrific slaughter."

Twelve states enacted 25 abortion bans in 2019, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, although none specifically suspended medical licenses of doctors who perform abortions. Most of the bans prohibited abortion after a certain gestational age, while others banned specific abortion methods or prohibitions based on the patient's reason for seeking an abortion, for example if a fetus had Down syndrome or a genetic anomaly.

The Oklahoma measure now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it is likely to pass, and Gov. Kevin Stitt has indicated he would sign any anti-abortion measure sent to him by the Legislature.

"He is monitoring legislation being introduced and looks forward to signing bills they send that protects the life of the unborn," said Stitt spokeswoman Baylee Lakey.

The bill's passage comes one day before a court hearing on a challenge to two abortion restrictions: one that only allows doctors to perform medication abortion and another that prohibits the use of telemedicine to perform a medication abortion.

Six separate legal challenges have been launched against Oklahoma abortion restrictions in the past five years. The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned three of those restrictions, including laws that required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and restricted the use of medication-induced abortions, and a third that covered several abortion-related topics.

Two other challenges are pending, including one seeking to overturn a law that bans the standard method of abortion used after the 14th week of a pregnancy and that requires women to wait 72 hours after counseling before obtaining an abortion, and another law that requires doctors to tell women that medication-induced abortions can be reversed at a certain point in the process. Both of those laws have been put on hold while the cases are litigated.

Associated Press

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