The Oklahoma House of Representatives has approved a bill that would require doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. House Bill 2418 passed Thursday with a 73-9 vote reports the Tulsa World. The Senate is considering a similar bill.
Opponents of the bill say it is an attempt to shut down abortion clinics in the state. Many of Oklahoma’s abortion clinics do not see enough patients to be granted admitting privileges. Many are also in rural areas and would not meet the bill’s requirement that clinics be within 30 miles of a hospital.
The bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Ritze, a physician, who says the proposed law is meant to protect women who may suffer complications from abortion procedures.
"Life is one of the most precious things," Ritze said. "This bill adds another protection not only for unborn but for women.”
Apart from being a veiled attempt to force closure of abortion clinics many opponents argue it is foolhardy to pursue legislation that has already been struck down by courts in other states.
"This bill has been struck down in at least four states," said Rep. Kay Floyd, a Democrat. "At the very least, we ought to change the effective date to 2015 instead of 2014 until we see how those cases are resolved."
According to the San Antonio Express-News, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down the hospital admittance requirement in a similar law in Texas last year. Abortion-rights groups said that decision averted a “catastrophic health crisis for women across the state of Texas.”
In a Reuters story The Texas Hospital Association weighed-in on the admittance provision, saying it was unnecessary because women who experience post-abortion complications can easily be treated at an emergency room.
That seemed to be good enough for Democratic Rep. Anastasia Pittman of Oklahoma City, who expressed concern that legislators need not get involved in such medical matters.
"Are we as legislators qualified to make this decision?” she asked. "Am I overstepping my boundaries?
The debate will continue. The Senate version of the bill, SB 1848, was voted out of committee on Wednesday and is awaiting a full vote.