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Oklahoma House approves bill banning abortion after 20 weeks

The Oklahoma House of Representatives [official website] voted 94-2 Wednesday to approve a bill [HB 1888] that would ban abortion [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks of gestation. The "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," similar to a bill passed in Nebraska [JURIST report] last year, is based on evidence suggesting that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks [Reuters report]. The legislation would permit abortions after the 20-week mark only in cases where the mother's life is at risk or she faces serious injury. Doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks would be subject to criminal prosecution, but there would be no penalty for women undergoing the procedure. The bill will now advance to the Senate, where it is expected to pass [NewsOK report].

This bill is the latest attempt by the Oklahoma legislature to place restrictions on abortion. In July, an Oklahoma district judge extended a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of a new law [JURIST report] requiring women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and hear a description of the fetus. In May, Oklahoma lawmakers overrode a veto [JURIST report] by Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry [official website] and approved a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In April, Henry signed three abortion bills into law [JURIST report]. The first bill prohibits abortions performed because of the gender of the fetus. The second bill creates the Freedom of Conscience Act and protects medical employees who refuse to participate in procedures such as abortion based on religious beliefs. The third bill regulates the use of RU-486, or mifepristone, a chemical used in abortion procedures.

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