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OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)--The final step to passage of the most significant pro-life legislation in Oklahoma in 30 years was passed by the state House of Representatives in a 95-3 vote May 12.
The bipartisan measure, House Bill 1686, includes parental notification, informed consent and penalties for injury or death of a child in a mother’s womb when the woman is attacked or killed. Additionally, the bill’s “Laci and Conner Peterson”-styled provisions clarified the value of the life of a child in a mother’s womb.
Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasure of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said after the bill’s passage: “Today is one of the finest days in Oklahoma history. I am proud our legislators have worked together to protect the unborn and the rights of the individual and parents. I applaud state leaders from both chambers and from both sides of the aisle who have consistently stood for life and have sought for years to pass pro-life legislation. We now look to and encourage Gov. [Brad] Henry to sign the bill without delay.”
Although the bill passed the Senate with the leadership of several pro-life Democrats, including Senate pro tempore Mike Morgan, the Oklahoma House was even more ready to take a pro-life stance.
For the first time in decades the House is led by Republican leadership that is zealously focused on passage of pro-life and pro-family legislation during this session. Prior to the Senate’s passage of HB 1686 and the May 12 passage by the House, four other pro-life bills had passed the House but were not even given a Senate committee hearing. As one can tell by the margin of victory, several pro-life Democrats were energized to join with the Republican House majority and pass the bill.
House speaker Todd Hiett stated, "This is one of the most significant accomplishments for the new Republican majority in the House. For years, legislation protecting the unborn in our state died because of obstruction by Democrat leaders. This year, with strong support from Republican leadership in the House and state Senate, we will see Oklahoma's values upheld."
Even Democrat leaders in the House were enthused by the bill’s passage which was authored by Democrat Rep. Rebecca Hamilton. “The reason I am carrying this bill is because abortion kills a living child,” Hamilton said. “These babies have a beating heart, fingers that move and a soul.”
There was some political posturing but for the sake of life, values superseded politics. Todd Pauley, Oklahoma Baptists’ legislative liaison, said the legislature “has finally heard the children screaming for protection since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Casey almost 30 years ago.”
“For the first time in decades,” said Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life, “we'll have meaningful pro-life informed consent and parental notification laws."
The measure would establish three new laws in Oklahoma protecting the unborn and affirming Oklahoma's pro-life values:
-- An informed consent law, originally introduced as the Women's Right to Know Act by House Republicans in January. The measure requires that women be given all pertinent information about fetal development, the potential consequences of abortion and the gestational age of the unborn child at least 24 hours before receiving an abortion.
-- A parental notification provision, originally introduced as the Family Protection Act, which requires that parents be informed before an abortion can be performed on a minor.
-- A "Laci Peterson" law, originally introduced as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would allow prosecutors to charge criminals with the death or injury of an unborn child.
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, a member of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, stated, "As the former chairman and current member of the Rose Day committee, I want to give credit and thanks to the thousands of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters who annually came to the capitol with their roses on Rose Day, took their roses to their legislators and reminded their legislators how important it is to get pro-life legislation passed.
“They've been doing this for decades, and the fruit of their work was finally seen today in the passing of this landmark legislation,” Wesselhoft added. “They deserve the credit because they put gentle pressure on legislators to do the right thing for unborn children in Oklahoma."