Oklahoma Senate panel refuses to consider bill that would ban abortions on babies with genetic abnormalities

(Reuters/Damir Sagolj)Gammy, a baby born with Down Syndrome, is held by his surrogate mother Pattaramon Janbua (not seen) at a hospital in Chonburi province August 3, 2014.

A Republican chairman of a Senate committee in Oklahoma has refused to hear a bill that would ban abortions on babies with genetic abnormalities.

Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, has refused to hear House Bill 1549, saying the measure is unconstitutional and that lawmakers have more pressing issues.

House Bill 1549, authored by Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow), was passed by the House of Representatives on March 22 by a vote of 67–16, Tulsa World reported.

The legislation dubbed the "Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017" would prohibit abortions on unborn babies based on genetic abnormalities, with no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.

Faught had asked for the bill to be reassigned to another committee in light of Yen's comments. The Senate leadership had reassigned it to the Senate Rules Committee, but its chairman, Sen. Eddie Fields (R-Wynona), said last week that he had not decided whether to hear the bill.

The legislation was not included when the agenda for the Wednesday meeting was publicized on Tuesday.

Fields said that Dahm did not ask him to hear the legislation and that it would not be taken under other businesses.

"I have heard that there are some of my Senate colleagues that would rather not be asked to consider the legislation. Perhaps they have made the chairman of the committee aware of these feelings," Yen said.

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, who expressed support for the bill last week, said that Senate Floor Leader Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) had moved the measure to another committee.

Schulz further noted that a bill with near exact language passed the Senate chamber last year.

Explaining his reason for introducing the bill, Faught said that he believes children in the womb deserve to be protected.

"I think life begins at conception, so that's my position. Someone needs to speak for those children, too, and that's what I feel like we're trying to do," he said.

Lawmakers appear to be concerned that the legislation would be challenged and overturned in courts, costing state taxpayers money while never succeeding in saving the lives of unborn babies.

Courts have blocked several measures that put restrictions on abortion in recent years. In 2016, Indiana passed a similar law prohibiting abortions on unborn babies with special needs, but it was later blocked by a judge.

A similar law is in effect in North Dakota, while other states prohibit sex-selection abortions.

Last year, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who is generally anti-abortion, has vetoed a bill that would have banned abortions in the state.

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