Oklahoma House passes bill to limit abortion providers to OB/GYNs

The Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Republican majority took another swing at restricting abortion access on Tuesday with a measure that would limit providers to board certified obstetricians and gynecologists.

House Bill 1904, by Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, ostensibly would protect women undergoing the procedure, but Roe readily admitted that her bill’s primary objective is to make abortions harder to get.

“The intent of this bill is to hopefully drastically reduce the number of abortions in this state,” she said.

The bill’s practical effect is unclear, although a number of primary care physicians reportedly perform abortions. Opponents of the measure said only 27 of the state’s 77 counties have OBGYNs.

Similar laws passed in Arkansas and Louisiana are on hold pending litigation, while Mississippi’s remains in force in part because the state’s only abortion provider meets the requirement.

Roe said abortions should be performed only by OBGYNs in case emergencies arise, but she acknowledged that such complications are rare.

Democrats argued that Republicans would rather campaign on abortion than actually stop or reduce it, and they predicted that Tuesday’s bill will ultimately be thrown out by the courts.

“After 11 years in this building I can safely say this is nothing but a show,” said Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “Because if you truly want to decrease the number of abortions that take place in this state, there are proven strategies to do so, but time and again this body fails to take up those policies.”

Democrats said the number of abortions in the state has risen along with the restrictions placed on it and that reversing the trend requires preventing unwanted pregnancies and giving families the supports they need to raise children.

Roe agreed that social inequities often play a role in women’s decisions to have abortions, but she said the decision should not be theirs to make.

“Ripping life from a woman’s womb is wrong,” she said.

The bill passed 80-19, strictly on party lines, and goes to the Senate.

Also Tuesday, the House unanimously approved HB 1006, by Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, which would require health care providers to publish the prices of their most common medical procedures.

The Republican majority added two proposed requirements for ballot questions. HB 2564, by Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, would require automatic recounts of close votes on such issues, and HB 1767, by Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, would require each initiative petition ballot title to include a statement of whether the measure would require additional state funding.

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