Oklahoma House passes bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks

OKLAHOMA CITY Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:57am EST

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OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation.

The bill passed 94-2 without debate and will now go to the state Senate, said state Representative Pam Peterson, who sponsored the bill.

The proposed law, similar to one passed in Nebraska last year, is based on medical evidence that an unborn child can feel pain at the 20-week mark, Peterson said.

"The science is there," said Peterson, a Tulsa Republican. "Whether you're pro-life or pro-abortion, we should all agree that gratuitous suffering by an unborn child is incompatible with our society."

Lawmakers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon are considering similar abortion restrictions, said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state abortion policies in Washington, D.C., for the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute.

"These types of bills really are aiming to substantially reduce access to abortion rights," Nash said.

"What's different is it changes the standard at which abortions have been regulated. These are very disturbing developments if you want to protect women's reproductive options."

Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, states have had the right to outlaw abortions after a fetus is deemed viable by a physician.

The Oklahoma measure, called the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," allows abortions in cases in which the mother's life is at risk or she faces serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.

Abortion providers who violate the proposed law would be subject to felony prosecution, but women who undergo the prohibited abortions would not be penalized.

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