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Second chance: Controversial anti-abortion bill passes out of committee on second hearing

Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – It seems that a controversial bill dealing with abortion and genetic abnormalities will head to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

House Bill 1549 would ban abortions due to genetic abnormalities or Down Syndrome.

Last week, the bill failed to pass out of the Public Health Committee after a 4-4 tie.

In an unprecedented move, three new Republican lawmakers voted against the bill, joining a Democrat.

“It’s an unconstitutional bill. We already have a bill on the books. And it’s not worth our time or our money or energy to pursue these,” Rep. Carol Bush told NewsChannel 4 on Thursday.

She says she’s tired of seeing bills proposed that won’t stand up in court.

However, others in her own party say they shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not a bill is constitutional.

“That’s not really for a legislator to decide. That’s for the courts to decide,” said Rep. Mike Ritze.

“In a time when we have a budget shortfall of almost $900 million, how much money are we wasting today in the courts fighting unconstitutional legislation?” said Rep. Forrest Bennett, the Democrat who voted against the bill.

Rep. Bennett says this freshman class of legislators is focused on bigger issues.

“The one thing that we’ve heard from all corners of the state is what are you going to do about the budget? And what are you going to do about the schools? And that bill didn’t do anything for either of those issues,” said Rep. Bennett.

“The budget is important but moral issues are very important to the people that elect us,” said Rep. Ritze.

Less than a week later, it seems something has changed.

On Tuesday, the Public Health Committee approved the bill in a 5-2 vote, sending it to the full House for consideration.

In an about-face, Rep. Lawson and Rep. McEntire voted for the bill. Rep. Bush was absent from the vote.

Rep. Lawson, a freshman Republican who originally voted against the bill, became a co-author and helped change some of the wording of the bill.

The Trust Women Foundation released the following statement on the issue:

“Women and their families facing a fetal indication make heartbreaking decisions,” Julie A. Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women Foundation, said. “When a woman chooses to terminate a wanted pregnancy, she is doing so because she believes that is the best outcome. No one makes such a decision lightly. We know that from the women we serve at our clinics, 70 percent of whom are already mothers when they come to see us for abortion care.”