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Oklahoma governor vetoes bill criminalizing abortion

In this May 18, 2016, file photo, Oklahoma

In this May 18, 2016, file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin walks on the floor of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City. Credit: AP / Sue Ogrocki

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed legislation that would have effectively outlawed abortion in the state by making it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure, saying the measure was vague and would not withstand a legal challenge.

Fallin, a Republican who opposes abortion, vetoed the measure Friday, just a day after the Legislature passed it. The bill, which abortion-rights group Center for Reproductive Rights said was the first of its kind in the U.S., also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma.

"The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin wrote in her veto message. "While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination."

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, said the measure was aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Dahm said Friday that he was considering whether to try to override the governor's veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in each chamber, a threshold that was not met in the House when the bill passed.

"Of course I'll consider it," Dahm said. "I'm weighing my options."

The bill would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, including doctors. State law already makes it a felony for anyone who's not a doctor to perform an abortion, and Dahm's bill would have removed the exemption for physicians.

The Senate approved the bill 33-12 vote with no debate on Thursday; the 101-member House approved it April 21 on a 59-9 vote.

Dahm had said Thursday after the bill's passage that he hoped it could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

"Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it's a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception," said Dahm, from Broken Arrow.

But abortion-rights supporters — and the state's medical association — said the bill was unconstitutional. Sen. Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City Republican and the only physician in the Senate, described the measure as "insane" and voted against it.

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