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LIFE DIGEST: Okla. Senate falls short of override, but another vote set; …

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Oklahoma Senate’s effort to override a veto of a ban on state-funded, elective abortions fell just short, but Southern Baptists and other pro-lifers in the state are not giving up.

Sen. Charlie Laster, a Democrat from Shawnee, switched his vote April 25, enabling Gov. Brad Henry’s veto to stand. The roll call in favor of the override was 31-17, but 32 votes were required to gain the two-thirds majority to prevail over the veto. Previously, Laster had voted three times in favor of the legislation, including during a 32-16 roll call on final passage.

“Absolute disappointment, of course,” Oklahoma Baptist leader Anthony Jordan told Baptist Press April 30 about his reaction to the failed override. “But we are not giving up. We are marshalling troops as we speak to contact their senators.”

The bill’s author, Sen. James Williamson of Tulsa, is expected to attempt another override vote May 9. The first override attempt was “just the beginning,” said Williamson, a Republican, in a written statement. “Our fight on behalf of unborn Oklahomans will continue for as long as necessary until we override this veto.”

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma will be providing information on the next override vote through the Baptist Messenger, the state newspaper, and e-mails, said Jordan, the convention’s executive director. Jordan also is calling pastors to encourage them to urge church members to contact their senators, he said.

“We are not going to quit [in the effort against abortion],” Jordan said. “We are going to stay in this battle. Of course, this particular bill is very important, because it uses taxpayer money to pay for abortions.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 714, would bar public funds and state-run medical facilities from being used for abortions except when a mother’s life is endangered. The bill would mandate that a woman take out an extra health insurance policy to cover an abortion.

Laster said he had visited with Henry, a Democrat, and several medical professionals before the override vote. He described himself as pro-life but cited in explaining his switch the measure’s lack of an exception for rape or incest. He also said it would harm the doctor-patient relationship and tamper with insurance coverage.

Williamson said Laster’s “flip-flop on this life-and-death issue is surprising and disappointing. [He] will likely be hearing from many pro-life Oklahomans in the coming days. There will be a lot of prayers that he will have a change of heart on the next override vote.”

The BGCO and Oklahomans for Life are targeting Laster and three other Democrats who opposed the override in an effort to gain the vote needed for a two-thirds majority.

The BGCO’s website at www.bgco.org has more information on the override effort.

In other state news:

— The North Dakota Senate and House of Representatives both approved April 23 a ban on abortion that would be triggered by a Supreme Court decision reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

— The Florida House passed legislation April 27 requiring a woman to have a 24-hour waiting period and to be offered the opportunity to view an ultrasound image of her unborn child before having an abortion, according to the Associated Press.

— The Missouri House voted April 23 to require facilities that perform any mid- or late-term abortions, as well as those that do more than five first-trimester procedures a month, to undergo increased regulation by the state, the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune reported.

SCREENING BABIES TO DEATH -– Embryo screening to identify and prevent the birth of babies who carry an increased risk of disease later in life will soon be put into practice in Great Britain, according to a recent report.

The Times of London reported April 26 that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has approved in principle an agreement to allow two couples whose families have been plagued by breast cancer to become the first to test embryos for a gene that increases the risk of the ailment but does not always result in it.

The couples will undergo in vitro fertilization, resulting in a single cell being taken for testing from each embryo at the eight-cell stage, according to The Times. Only embryos that do not carry the breast cancer gene will be implanted in the women’s womb.

Pro-life advocates decried the development.

“One can certainly understand and empathize with the desire to prevent a daughter from ever suffering breast cancer. But eventually we may be able to identify gene defects in each and every human being that increase the likelihood that he or she will eventually contract some dread disease,” bioethics specialist Wesley Smith wrote in his weblog at bioethics.com.

“If this eugenic attitude continues, we could get to the point that we permit no babies are born at all! After all, unless we are hit by a trick early on, we will all suffer from some human characteristic, whether illness-related, due to a disability, or ridicule.

“We are all born to die,” Smith wrote. “Each of us is ‘defective’ in some manner.”

DEATH IN THE CITY -– Mexico City’s legislature rejected the policies of the rest of the country and legalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in a vote April 24.

The law was to go into effect April 27, City Health Secretary Manuel Mondragon said, according to AP. Women will have to prove they are Mexico City residents, unless it is an emergency, Mondragon said. Under the law, girls 17 and under must have parental consent, AP reported.

Abortion will be available without charge in half of the 28 city hospitals, according to AP.

Abortion in the heavily Roman Catholic country normally is permitted only when the mother’s life is threatened or in cases of rape or severe fetal deformities.

April 24 “is already being called ‘Black Tuesday’ in Mexico City,” said Thomas Euteneuer, a Catholic priest and president of Human Life International, in a written release. “The imperialists of death who are on the march in Latin America assaulting the Catholic values in those countries can only draw strength from this.”