Controversial abortion 'reversal' bill sent to Oklahoma governor
A controversial anti-abortion bill that would require physicians to inform patients that a medically induced abortion may be reversible is headed to the governor's desk.
On Tuesday, the House passed legislation requiring physicians who prescribe a specific abortion medication to post signage in their office indicating the abortion may be reversible.
Doctors who perform medication abortions could also face felony charges if they don’t inform women the process may be reversed after they ingest the first of two abortion-inducing pills.
The idea that medically induced abortions can be reversed stems from a 2012 case study of seven women, four of whom did not take the second dose of the two-dose abortion pill regimen and continued their pregnancies.
Questions have been raised about the validity of the study because it featured no control groups as a benchmark for which the results were measured against.
There are no other examples of medical research that indicate medically induced abortions can be reversed.
Senate Bill 614, sponsored by Rep. Mark Lepak, R-Claremore, would require doctors who prescribe mifepristone, better known as the "abortion pill," to post signs in their office informing patients on how they can reverse the abortion.
Doctors would also be required to inform a woman of the possibility of reversing a medically induced abortion at least 72 hours before her appointment, and could face felony charges if they don’t.
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The House passed the measure on a nearly party-line vote of 74-24.
Passions ran high as House Republicans and Democrats debated the bill for more than an hour in an argument that hit on all sides of the abortion debate.
Lepak characterized the bill as both an anti-abortion and a "pro-choice" measure.
“You’re giving a woman a second chance to make a choice,” he said.
There are women who have remorse or regrets after they start the abortion process and they may not know they don’t have to carry through with the abortion, he said.
And doctors aren’t necessarily going to tell patients they may be able to reverse an abortion partway through because it would be bad for business, he said.
But Democrats, citing a lack of proven studies showing abortions can be reversed, argued that Lepak’s bill would require doctors to provide scientifically suspect information to their patients
Democrats also raised concerns about the constitutionality of the legislation, warning that if the measure were signed into law, it would be challenged in the courts.
Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, pointed to Arizona where Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a similar bill in 2015
In the face of a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood of Arizona and other pro-abortion groups, Ducey signed in 2016 a bill to repeal the law he’d signed the year before. The repeal bill ended the legal dispute, but the state of Arizona was required to pay more than $600,000 in legal fees for Planned Parenthood and other groups involved in the lawsuit.
“This bill is unconstitutional,” Walke said. “How can you vote for this when you know the outcome?”
Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, called the measure inhumane and criticized it for penalizing doctors who are doing their jobs.
“It’s a cruel bill couched in something that can be made to look shiny and good,” he said.
The legislation includes language for what must be on the signs posted in patient waiting rooms and consultation rooms.
Per the bill, the signs must include language saying a medically induced abortion may be reversed, include the phone number for a 24-hour Abortion Pill Reversal hotline and multiple websites that contain information about the development of an unborn child.
The lettering on the signs is required to be written or typed in at least three-quarters of an inch boldface type.
Any doctor’s office that knowingly fails to post signage could face a $10,000 per day fine.
Pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood in Oklahoma and the Trust Women Foundation are already calling on Stitt to veto the measure, but chances of a gubernatorial veto appear slim.
Stitt vowed on the campaign trail to support anti-abortion efforts and has since doubled down, saying he would sign any anti-abortion bill to make it to his desk.