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UPDATED: Okla. governor vetoes abortion bill

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed S.B. 1552 on Friday (May 20), according to media reports.

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) — Oklahoma state legislators have passed a law that could revoke the medical license of any doctor who aborts a “viable” baby for any reason other than to “preserve the life of the mother.”

S.B. 1552 also would extend an existing statute that classifies performing an abortion under certain conditions as a felony. If the bill is signed by Gov. Mary Fallin, any abortion performed on a baby deemed viable would carry a prison term of one to three years unless the abortion is to save the physical life of the mother, said state Sen. Dan Newberry, a Republican who coauthored the bill.

The bill does not use the term viable, but Newberry told Baptist Press it functions in tandem with existing Oklahoma law that defines viable as “potentially able to live outside the womb of the mother.”

Some media outlets have reported the bill was intended to generate a legal challenge that could rise to the U.S. Supreme Court and potentially lead to a reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion decision. But Newberry told BP his primary intent in offering the bill was to protect life, not set legal precedent.

“In Oklahoma, we’re not unaccustomed to our pro-life pushes being challenged in the courts,” said Newberry, who has served on the staffs of multiple Southern Baptist churches. He added that “in my participation in the bill,” an eventual Supreme Court case “has never been a part of the intent of our discussion. What we talk about in this bill is protecting the life of an unborn, viable child.”

The House passed the measure last month by a 59-9 margin, with the Senate approving it yesterday (May 19) 33-12.

Fallin, a pro-life Republican, “will withhold comment until her staff has time to review” the legislation, the Associated Press reported. Under state law, Newberry said, the governor has 15 days to sign the bill into law, veto it or take no action, which would have the same effect as a veto.

S.B. 1552 anticipates potential court challenges by asking the state attorney general to “determine the amount of state or local funds” needed to defend any challenges and report them to the legislature. The current attorney general, Scott Pruitt, is a Southern Baptist and trustee at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Blake Gideon, pastor of First Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., worked on the statewide campaign to support S.B. 1552. He told BP his “ultimate desire is to see Roe v. Wade overturned,” but “the purpose of this bill is to stop abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”

“My prayer is that God will use it far beyond our state borders,” Gideon said in email comments. “My motivation for being a part of this grassroots effort is to honor God and life. Hundreds of Oklahoma pastors have been involved in encouraging their congregations to support this particular bill. I am very proud of our pro-life legislators in Oklahoma. They have taken some hard stands and have stayed the course in the midst of opposition.

“I understand that abortion is just one part of a bigger battle we have with the secular humanists,” Gideon noted. “But we must fight! We cannot bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away. Every Christian ought to be praying and working as hard as they can to nullify the abominable abortion laws of our country and especially those in their particular state.

“We believe that Oklahomans ought to be on the front lines contending for the faith and confronting the moral breakdown of our society. Make no mistake about it: this is a life and death struggle that we cannot ignore. Our faith must lead us beyond pietism, to activism. Together, we must stand strong and loud for the life of the unborn,” he said.

This year, Oklahoma topped Americans United for Life’s “Life List” as the U.S. state most protective of unborn life.