State bill that would revoke licenses from doctors who perform abortions slammed by activists

The bill excludes abortions that save the life of the mother.

February 11, 2020, 4:42 PM

A bill in Oklahoma that would take away the licenses of physicians who perform abortions is getting slammed from both abortion rights and anti-abortion activists.

Last week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 71-21 in favor of House Bill 1182, which would mandate the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision revoke the doctor's license for a year and fine them at least $500 if they perform the procedure in the state. The bill, which was drafted by Rep. Jim Olsen, provides an exception for procedures that are "necessary to save the life of the mother."

Although the bill passed along party lines in the GOP-controlled House, Republican State Sen. Joseph Silk, who has a bill that would classify abortion a homicide, and Christian activists, have dismissed the bill citing that it doesn't go far enough to restrict abortion services in the state.

"This is very clear when you read the language in the bill and see the people who are in support of the bill. Some of them are the exact people who worked hard against legislation that would have offered equal protection for unborn children," he said in a statement.

Kristin Ford, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said despite the language that provides an exception, Olsen's bill was still an attempt to ban abortions, despite Roe V. Wade.

PHOTO: File photo: Abortion opponents cheer for a speaker at a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.
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 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.
File-Sue Ogrocki/AP

"Politicians have no place intimidating doctors and interfering in personal decisions about abortion, which belong to women and families," she said in a statement.

Olsen told ABC News that he intends for the legislation to act as a way of reducing the number of abortions based on his own belief that life begins at conception. He said he didn't want to make it harder in cases where the mother's life is at stake and wanted to give doctors that discretion.

"In that situation [it] would be OK for an abortion when the mother's life is in danger," he said,

Olsen, who has no medical training, said he did not consult with any physicians or medical groups before drafting his bill. He also said he has no plans to talk with Silk, but said he would support any measure that reduces abortion access in the state.

Dr. Anuj Khattar, a family medicine physician and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health who practices in the state, told ABC News that Olsen's bill would be more destructive for the women of Oklahoma than the physicians.

Khattar said women who seek to have the procedure need trained medical professionals to ensure their safety. Removing doctors' licenses would force the patients to travel farther to have a procedure, or worse, be prevented from getting an abortion at a clinic altogether, he said.

"If a woman wants to terminate their pregnancy, they want expert care to get that procedure," Khattar said.

Khattar said he would oppose the bill and hoped that state leaders recognize that abortion rights are a legal right under Roe v. Wade.

"It's inflammatory for politicians who don't know these women's stories to go and make these laws," he said.

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